February 14, 2022

Senate committee approves cannabis law changes

The New Mexico Senate Judiciary Committee on Sunday moved a cannabis clean-up bill forward with a 6-3 vote. 

SB 100 aims to amend the Cannabis Regulation Act by doing several things, including increasing production limits for cannabis microbusinesses from 200 to 1,000 and allowing microbusinesses to wholesale products. 

During the committee hearing, Regulation and Licensing Superintendent Linda Trujillo told committee members that increasing production limits for cannabis microbusinesses will help to ensure there is enough medical cannabis in the state for the patients that rely on it. She said her department and its Cannabis Control Division originally planned on all cannabis producers subscribing to the maximum number of plants. The department recently issued an emergency rule change that raised plant limits for most producers from 10,000 to 20,000. 

“The analysis was based on all [producers] just biting at the bit and waiting to go up to the amount of 10,000,” Trujillo said. “Come to find out they weren’t because the cost was too high.”

Trujillo added that with only a handful of producers maxing out their supply limit, medical cannabis supplies could be threatened. Further, she said, raising production limits for larger producers posed an equity problem for microproducers, whose production limits are written into law and not department rules. 

“Now when you start comparing a business that can do 20,000, in comparison to a business that can do 200, there is just no equity there, there really is just no equity there, it’s almost impossible to compete like that,” Trujillo said. 

Republican committee members unsuccessfully tried to add amendments that would limit which types of companies microbusinesses can engage in wholesale transactions with and remove language that allows non-profit cannabis companies to become for-profit companies. Under rules implemented by the Department of Health, medical cannabis companies were required to be non-profit. Once the Cannabis Regulation Act went into effect, that requirement was eliminated. 

But one amendment, presented by Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, eliminates a requirement to show legal access to water as a condition of licensure. Pirtle argued that it’s already illegal to use water without legal access for any kind of use. 

“It’s really just unnecessary red tape. It’s already illegal to use water if you don’t have a legal right to it,” Pirtle said. “So it really doesn’t make sense to then have to prove that you have a legal right to water, it’s already illegal to pump water and grow corn instead, as opposed to cannabis or any other type of plants.”

The bill’s sponsor and committee member Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, was the only one to vote against the amendment. But committee member and cannabis lawyer Sen. Katy Duhigg said the requirement has been an impediment for cannabis producers.  

“If we want this to be a thriving industry in New Mexico and one that especially small farmers have the ability to really engage with, this is a good step towards making that happen,” Duhigg said. 

The bill now heads to the Senate floor and then on to the House where it will likely see at least one committee assignment. The 30-day legislative session ends on Thursday at noon.