ABQ cannabis sales approval process causes confusion

In about seven weeks, adult-use cannabis retail shops are expected to open for the first time in New Mexico. But local ordinances and permitting processes in the state’s most populous city are causing confusion for some that are hoping to be among those businesses that start selling non-medical cannabis on April 1. 

Last week, the City of Albuquerque’s Planning Department announced that it would be accepting applications for “Cannabis Retail Location Approval,” and that any cannabis business that intends to sell cannabis to the public would need city approval. But at least two cannabis businesses were under the impression they were already approved for retail sales. 

The cannabis business licensing process starts at the state’s Cannabis Control Division. That division requires certain information and approval from local jurisdictions before issuing a state license to grow, manufacture or sell cannabis. 

Matt Muñoz, who is one of three owners of Carver Family Farm has seen first-hand the sometimes cyclical nature of licensure. Before Carver Family Farm could get licensed by the state, the company needed proof that its operations were in compliance with local zoning codes.

NM cannabis regulators now accepting all types of business applications

The New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department and its Cannabis Control Division announced on Tuesday that it would start accepting applications for all cannabis businesses. The department and its cannabis division has already been accepting applications for cultivation licenses, but in the announcement on Tuesday, the department said it is accepting all business applications as a way to “streamline the licensing process.”

“The Cannabis Control Division’s licensing system is open for business,” Regulation and Licensing Superintendent Linda Trujillo said in a statement. She added that the department is expanding its “user-friendly online platform” in order to get ahead of the process of licensing businesses. 

While the department will start accepting applications for manufacturing, retail and testing licenses, rules and regulations for those license types have not been finalized, so those licenses will not be issued until rules are promulgated. 

Cannabis Control Division Director Kristen Thomson, in a statement, said the division decided to move forward with accepting applications after hearing concerns about hitting the ground running.  

“After hearing stakeholders’ enthusiasm for standing up this industry as soon as possible, we are instituting this new licensing process to help businesses, entrepreneurs and communities maximize the economic opportunities this new industry is creating,” Thomson said. RLD and CCD have already issued at least one cultivation license and by law, recreational-use cannabis sales have to begin no later than April 1, 2022.

NM state regulators hear from public on proposed cannabis courier, manufacturing, retail rules

The New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department and its Cannabis Control Division heard from the public on Thursday during a public rulemaking hearing regarding cannabis couriers, retail establishments and manufacturing facilities. 

The comments during the meeting varied from proposed regulations for packaging requirements, general business practices to cannabis deliveries to both businesses and residences. Albuquerque-based cannabis attorney Katy Duhigg brought up a series of issues she said she would like to see changed and offered specific suggestions. Duhigg also serves as a New Mexico state Senator, but said she was not speaking in her capacity as a lawmaker. 

Duhigg took issue with a proposed requirement that cannabis manufactures prove they have access to water rights because manufacturing doesn’t necessarily use water the same way cultivation does.    

“Requiring all manufacturers to prove water rights for their application, I think, is unreasonably burdensome, because it’s just not going to be a factor for a number of them,” Duhigg said. 

During the special legislative session surrounding the Cannabis Regulation Act, lawmakers added a provision that cannabis cultivation companies, which are often referred to as producers, have to show that they have legal access to water after many members of the public raised concerns about New Mexico’s scarce water supply.  

Duhigg also said she was concerned with a provision that would limit cannabis retail businesses from giving away free products to anyone but medical cannabis patients. 

“I think that businesses should be allowed to make the business decision to give free products if they so choose, Duhigg said. “It should be tracked and accounted for, but I don’t think there’s a compelling governmental interest in restricting who businesses can give their products away to for free.” 

Duhigg also suggested the department revisit a proposed rule that would limit cannabis deliveries to residential addresses. She said it would put an “unreasonable burden” on couriers to decide what is considered a residence. 

“It will reduce cannabis tourism in New Mexico, and there’s no compelling governmental interest in doing that,” Duhigg said.