NM issues first cannabis cultivation license

A New Mexico-based cannabis company announced this week that it received the first cannabis cultivation license earlier this month from the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department. 

In a statement from president and CEO of Mother’s Meds, Tony Martinez, the company was awarded a cannabis production license by RLD on November 1, 2021. In the statement, Martinez attributed the company’s “hard work, due diligence, and adaptability,” along with the “business friendly attitude” of San Juan County for Mother’s Meds getting the first production license, outside of the 34 legacy producers that carried over from the Department of Health. 

Martinez said Mother’s Meds, which is doing business as Lava Leaf Organics, will not likely hire many employees, but instead plans to establish contracts with other professionals. 

“My least favorite part of business is placing a value on another person’s efforts and talents; this model allows people more control over their destiny and to work with us, not for us,” Martinez wrote in a statement. “I believe this will allow our community to attract and retain more talented professionals than our competitors.”

A spokesperson for the state’s Cannabis Control Division confirmed on Wednesday that the department issued Martinez’s company a license, but added that there is still a pending background check.  

“Mother’s Meds has been issued a cannabis producer’s license and that license will go into effect as soon as all background check requirements are met,” division spokesperson Heather Brewer said in a statement. “The Cannabis Control Division is excited to start issuing licenses and looks forward to public announcements and celebrations of new businesses as the Division works to stand up a thriving adult-use cannabis industry in New Mexico.” 

Martinez said his company “will continue to comply with all CCD rules and regulations.”

Martinez, along with his brother and father unsuccessfully applied for a production license through DOH in 2015. Prior to the Cannabis Regulation Act, which went into effect earlier this year, medical cannabis businesses were licensed by DOH.

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.

NM cannabis regulators set to accept applications for growers

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.

State orders Las Cruces store to stop ‘gifting’ cannabis

In what could end up being the first test case of illicit cannabis operations in a post-legalization New Mexico, a business “gifting” cannabis has caught the attention of state regulators. 

According to KVIA-TV, the state’s Cannabis Control Division sent a cease and desist letter to a Las Cruces business called Speak Easy after it was discovered that the business was giving away cannabis with the purchase of a sticker. 

In the letter, the Cannabis Control Division concluded that the price of said stickers matched the value of the cannabis being gifted and therefore is illegal. 

“Additional media stories have been published by other media outlets in the Las Cruces, New Mexico, area likewise recounting the ‘gifting’ of cannabis products by Speak Easy to involve a purchase being made by a customer and the quantity of the ’gift’ of cannabis products provided by Speak Easy being tied to the dollar value of the purchase made by the customer,” the letter stated. A lawyer representing Speak Easy told KVIA-TV that the business is operating within the law and that gifting cannabis is still an “unsettled area of law.” 

A spokesperson for the state’s Regulation and Licensing Department, which oversees the Cannabis Control Division, previously told NM Political Report that there are two sections in law that address giving away cannabis. 

The Cannabis Control Act, which went into effect on June 29 of this year defines trafficking as “the distribution, sale, barter or giving away of cannabis products,” but in a separate section, the law states that adults 21 years of age or older can gift cannabis to another adult as long as there is no compensation. Further complicating the issue, sanctioned sales of adult-use cannabis will not start until sometime next year, and the gifted cannabis has to be obtained through legal means. 

It’s unclear whether Speak Easy and its lawyer will challenge the cease and desist letter, but the issue might be brought to the Legislature for further clarification. 

When NM Political Report asked RLD about trafficking versus gifting, Heather Brewer, a spokesperson with the department said the issue may require tweaks to the law. 

“Our understanding is that the legislators’ intent was to allow for gifts of legally purchased cannabis to someone legally allowed to possess cannabis and to prevent the giving away of cannabis, without a license,” Brewer said. “If it turns out that this language is sufficiently vague as to create actual confusion in the enforcement of the law, it might be worth the Legislature going back and clarifying the language.” 

Duke Rodriguez, the president and CEO of the prominent medical cannabis producer Ultra Health, told NM Political Report that he visited Speak Easy earlier this week and purchased a $15 sticker. He said he was given one gram of cannabis, which he promptly threw away.