May 5, 2022

NM Cannabis regulators lift cease and desist order from producer

A New Mexico cannabis company that was ordered to cease operations at one of its Santa Fe facilities can now resume its operation. 

According to a letter from Cannabis Control Division Director Kristen Thomson to cannabis company Sacred Garden, state regulators lifted a previously issued cease and desist order on April 27.  

“Sacred Garden has remedied, or has initiated appropriate plans to remedy, all violations cited by the CCD related to imminent hazards to public health and to Sacred Garden employees,” Thomson wrote. 

The cease and desist order was issued by the Cannabis Control Division on March 24, after two reported instances of mold found on products from Sacred Garden and division staff reportedly found conditions that would pose a risk to the public at the Santa Fe facility. 

Days after the Cannabis Control Division issued the cease and desist letter to Sacred Garden, the cannabis producer filed a request for an injunction to counter the division’s order. Initially, a Santa Fe state district judge ordered the division to allow Sacred Garden to sell manufactured products, such as extracts and edible products, until the Santa Fe facility was deemed safe to fully reopen. In a subsequent hearing, the judge criticized the Cannabis Control Division for not articulating a clear path to compliance. Sacred Garden’s lawyer accused the division of adding additional requirements to remove the cease and desist order between hearings. 

During the initial hearing, the lawyer for the division said an inspector could go back to the Sacred Garden facility in a week to verify the safety issues had been fixed. But during the next hearing, the division’s attorney said Sacred Garden would need to find an air quality specialist to ensure there were no excessive mold spores in the facility.  

The judge gave the Cannabis Control Division about a week to come up with and complete a testing regime that would produce results by last week. According to a report from the New Mexico Department of Health’s Scientific Laboratory Division, obtained by NM Political Report through a public record request, six of the 13 samples from Sacred Garden that were tested showed high levels of yeast and mold. But cannabis testing standards approved and adopted by the Cannabis Control Division do not require tests for general yeast and mold. Instead, the division requires that all cannabis flower be tested specifically for aspergillus, a type of fungus that can produce dangerous mycotoxins.

The results from the Scientific Laboratory Division showed some Sacred Garden strains with tens of thousands of colony forming units of yeast and mold per gram, but the report did not specify beyond that. Other samples showed levels as low as 45 colony forming units of mold and yeast per gram. The division’s current testing standards require that aspergillus levels stay below 100 colony-forming units, but there is no standard for general mold and yeast.