As New Mexico regulators comb through applications for cannabis businesses and craft further rules and regulations, some industry hopefuls as well as industry veterans are starting to get nervous about timing.
By law, the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department must start issuing cannabis production licenses by Jan. 1, 2022. On April 1, 2022, recreational-use cannabis establishments are expected to open their doors. But, according to some cannabis producers, that timing makes things difficult. Some who are still waiting for their applications to be approved said it would be impossible to start selling cannabis products on the first day if they are not licensed before the start of next year.
For Alyssa Pearson and her partners who are planning on starting a vertically integrated cannabis establishment, the idea of being ready to stock shelves on April 1 is daunting. Pearson, who is in the process of moving back to her home state of New Mexico, has been watching the new industry unfold from afar.
New Mexico cannabis regulators are one step closer to opening the proverbial floodgates for those who plan to apply for a cannabis cultivation license.
The state’s Regulation and Licensing Department and its Cannabis Control Division announced on Tuesday that the department finalized rules and regulations for cannabis cultivation as well as a social and economic equity plan and plans for addressing possible cannabis shortages.
The department also announced that it would start accepting cultivation applications several days ahead of the statutory deadline of Sept. 1.
In a statement on Tuesday, RLD Superintendent Linda Trujillo said the rules “reflect the unique needs and perspectives of New Mexico residents, businesses, entrepreneurs and communities.”
“We are ready for business,” Trujillo said. “The Cannabis Control Division is committed to supporting licensees to maximize the economic opportunities that adult-use cannabis sales offer our state.”
The new rules create four different levels of cultivation licenses, based on the number of plants that a producer plans on growing. At the highest level, producers can have up to 8,000 flowering plants, but an unlimited number of immature plants. The rules seem to create a path for exceptions to the 8,000 plant rule, but also state that no cultivator may have more than 10,000 plants.
The finalized rules also set a goal for the Cannabis Control Division to ensure that “at least 50 percent of applicants for licensure, licenses, and cannabis industry employees” represent groups and communities that have historically been negatively impacted by previous drug laws.
For years, medical cannabis patient advocacy groups have raised concerns about the state’s Medical Cannabis Program taking a back seat to the new adult-use program.
When the New Mexico Legislature was considering a bill that eventually became the Cannabis Regulation Act, one of the major topics of concern was water use. Ultimately, lawmakers agreed to require cannabis growers to prove they had legal access to water. But one issue that was not addressed, at least not at length, was how much power it would take to operate possibly hundreds of grow operations around the state. A study released in March of this year showed that as states move towards legalizing adult-use cannabis, greenhouse gases and energy consumption have gone up. The study also showed that some of the higher energy-use areas were in the southwest and midwest regions of the U.S. And while state regulators do not have any specific energy restrictions for cannabis growers, two people familiar with New Mexico’s cannabis industry said the state’s climate will likely play a key role in keeping the carbon footprint of cannabis small.
The study from earlier this year found that high levels of greenhouse gases and excessive energy use comes from indoor growing, where climate control is reliant on fans, high powered lights and manufactured carbon dioxide.
A spokesperson for the state’s Regulation and Licensing Department, which oversees the state’s Cannabis Control Division said there are currently no restrictions or guidance for energy consumption.