The New Mexico Department of Health has officially revoked the license to grow and manufacture medical cannabis from a Santa Fe-based company that experienced an explosion last year, resulting in injuries.
In an official determination signed by DOH Secretary Tracie Collins on Monday, the department officially revoked the license for medical cannabis producer New Mexicann based on findings from a hearing officer earlier this year.
Collins’ final determination cited a number of violations as justification for revoking New Mexicann’s license to both grow medical cannabis and to manufacture derivatives and extracts. Those violations included failure to notify the state of what type of equipment was used for manufacturing, failing to use a “closed” extraction system and for “lifting an open extraction vessel containing an ethanol-based solution in the immediate vicinity of an active heater plate,” which ultimately caused the explosion, according to an investigation by the state.
At least one method for extracting certain parts of cannabis plants includes using volatile solvents such as butane or ethanol. There have been numerous reports of injuries across the nation involving dangerous extraction methods, both in officially licensed facilities and home operations. New Mexicann also experienced an explosion resulting in injuries in 2015, but it is unclear what, if any, repercussions New Mexicann faced the first time. The Cannabis Regulation Act, which legalizes recreational-use cannabis and goes into effect on June 29, makes home manufacturing using volatile solvents illegal.
New Mexicann’s license was one of 35 in the state and DOH has not opened the production or manufacturing licensing process for several years.
Last October, the Santa Fe Fire Department responded to an explosion at a well-known medical cannabis manufacturing facility. Besides being an early medical cannabis producer and manufacturer, the company, New Mexicann, experienced a similar explosion in 2015. Both instances reportedly resulted in employee injuries, but the latest explosion also resulted in a criminal complaint against New Mexicann’s executive director and reportedly a revocation hearing with the New Mexico Department of Health.
But while the criminal proceedings against the company’s director are open to the public, Department of Health rules require that medical cannabis license revocation hearings be closed to the public.
According to the criminal complaint against New Mexicann’s director Carlos Gonzales, the explosion last October was caused by a cannabis extraction process that the company was not licensed for. There are a variety of cannabis extraction processes, but in many instances the process involves volatile and flammable solvents. According to court records, state fire investigators found what appeared to be ethanol alcohol near a hotplate that was set to 500 degrees.
In New Mexico, state regulated programs are usually subject to rigorous inspection procedures, ensuring operations adhere to certain standards. After a review of public records by NM Political Report it appears that an often controversial state program may not applying rigorous standards to its participants. Last week the New Mexico Environment Department determined that medical cannabis producer New MexiCann Natural Medicine violated a number of Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards after an explosion ripped through a facility in Santa Fe last July. Of the seven violations filed with OSHA, three related directly to the work environment that New MexiCann provided for the extraction process. Through a public records request, NM Political Report obtained producer inspection records for a 12 month period that show mostly blank inspection forms for New MexiCann along with other producers around the state.
An explosion ripped through a Santa Fe medical cannabis dispensary last summer, sending two workers to the hospital with severe burns. Months later after an investigation, the New Mexico Environment Department released surveillance video of the explosion. The incident took place while two workers at New MexiCann Natural Medicine were attempting to extract THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, using butane. The butane ignited, and video shows two workers frantically trying to flee the flame-filled room. We’ve embedded the video below, but be warned that it may be difficult to watch for some.