April 14, 2021

Medical cannabis producers call for increased plant limits

Just days after New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a recreational-use cannabis bill into law and less than 90 days before the law goes into effect, some in the existing medical cannabis industry want state officials to immediately increase the amount of cannabis they can grow. 

A group of five New Mexico medical cannabis producers sent a letter with their concerns about the rollout of recreational-use cannabis to the heads of the state’s Regulation and Licensing Department and the state’s Department of Health. The letter from the medical cannabis producers said that even after the law goes into effect, a lack of new promulgated rules could result in increased medical sales, which, the producers argued, could also mean a shortage of medical cannabis for existing patients. 

“Therefore, the undersigned producers request that DOH and RLD raise the plant limitation until the full commercial market can be phased in,” the letter reads.

The group of producers calling for an increase in allowed plants include Ultra Health, which has long called for an increase in medical cannabis production limits or no limits at all, and Sacred Garden, which is currently involved in a legal battle with the state over gross receipts taxes on medical cannabis. The other three producers who signed onto the letter are G&G Genetics, Budding Hope and Kure. 

The Department of Health oversees the current Medical Cannabis Program. Regulation and Licensing will oversee all but the medical cannabis patient registry after the law goes into effect on June 29. 

In their letter, the producers reasoned that after June 29, existing Department of Health rules for purchase limits will be invalid. Currently, the Medical Cannabis Program measures cannabis and cannabis extracts with a unit system. One unit is equal to one gram of smokable cannabis or 200 milligrams of extracted THC. Patients are currently limited to purchasing 230 units in a rolling 90-day period, which equates to about 8 ounces of dried cannabis, commonly referred to as flower. But, the group of producers reasoned, after June 29, there will effectively be no cannabis purchase limits. The new law will limit each cannabis purchase to two ounces of cannabis flower, but there are currently no restrictions on the number of purchases a person could make. 

In the letter, the five producers anticipated a counter argument from the state that the existing rules for medical cannabis will remain effective until Regulation and Licensing promulgate new rules. The newly signed legalization law states that existing medical cannabis companies “shall continue to operate under rules promulgated for the medical cannabis program until the division promulgates rules for medical cannabis activity, except that a qualified patient, a primary caregiver and a reciprocal participant shall not be prohibited from purchasing and obtaining cannabis products pursuant to the medical cannabis program.”

But the five producers said that language could be interpreted to specifically prohibit the state from limiting purchase amounts. 

“[I]t plainly states that there shall be no prohibition on qualified patients purchasing and obtaining cannabis products,” the letter reads. “This could very well mean that patients have no purchase limitations whatsoever and that on June 29, 2021, state regulators cannot prohibit patients from purchasing as much cannabis as they wish.”

Further, the letter argues, the new law trumps the existing medical cannabis rules and regulations. 

“Now, DOH may claim that its 230-unit purchase limitation survives the Cannabis Regulation Act. However, Section 70 of the Cannabis Regulation Act plainly states, ‘To the extent any administrative rules are inconsistent with the provisions of this act, such rules are null and void,’” the letter stated. 

The producers also argued that the current rules under the Department of Health are “very inconsistent with the provisions of the Cannabis Regulation Act, because it restricts medical cannabis patients—who by definition suffer from debilitating medical conditions—to a measly 230 grams in a 90 day period, while under the Act any person can purchase two ounces, sixteen grams, and 800 milligrams.”

Representatives with the Department of Health and Regulation and Licensing both told NM Political Report that the respective departments were still reviewing the letter and could not comment on it at the time of publication. 

While recreational cannabis use and possession, as well as home cultivation of up to six mature plants, will be legal after June 29, commercial sales will not start until April 2022.