The New Mexico Senate approved a bill late Monday night that aims to clean up language of the state’s Cannabis Regulation Act, increase production limits for small cannabis companies and allow those smaller companies to wholesale cannabis to and from other cannabis businesses.
The most significant changes SB 100 proposes are increasing plant limits for cannabis microbusinesses from 200 to 1,000, allowing those types of businesses to buy, sell and transport cannabis from other companies and allow medical cannabis companies that were previously required to be registered as nonprofits to become for-profit companies.
After an amendment in a committee hearing the day before, nearly all of the debate on the Senate floor was devoted to water issues, even though the original bill did not address any changes related to water.
Earlier this week, a Senate committee approved an amendment that stripped a water right verification section from the Cannabis Regulation Act.
During a Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, proposed removing the section, calling it “unnecessary red tape.”
“There’s one instance of a constituent of mine that was trying to get licensed and they tried to transfer ownership into a separate business so that it didn’t put his farm into liability,” Pirtle said on Sunday. “And it became problematic to prove who has the legal right, who’s supposed to have it, who’s leasing from whom.”
Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, who works as a cannabis attorney, agreed with Pirtle.
“We have hamstrung this industry with the approach that we took to water in the bill last year,” Duhigg said on Sunday. “I think we got it wrong, frankly, last year, with what we did with water.”
Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, unsuccessfully tried to further amend the bill to include what she said was a compromise in verifying legal water access. Her amendment, she argued, would only require that a cannabis company “demonstrate” that it has legal access to water. But after about an hour of debate, her amendment failed on a 19-20 vote, with a number of Democrats voting against it.
Most of the pushback on the amendment came from Pirtle who reiterated his comments from the previous day, arguing that it’s already illegal to use water for any agricultural use without legal access to it.
“You have a water right or you don’t have a water right,” Pirtle said.