New Mexico has become a "backwater" on the issue of medical cannabis. That's what Sen. Cisco McSorley (D-Albuquerque) told a Health Department regulator at last Tuesday's meeting of the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee (of which McSorley is a member).
“Now medical cannabis is so well-accepted, it’s like mom and apple pie,” McSorley told medical cannabis program director Kenny Vigil at the hearing, as he chastised the department for its slow pace and lack of transparency. “Most politicians would die to get that kind of acceptance that medical cannabis gets, it’s so passe, almost. And yet here we are, 10 years later, trying to make this system work.”
Over the weekend, the Health Department made another executive decision that was out of step with trends elsewhere. Less than a day before the Santa Fe-based dispensary Sacred Garden was set to serve a five-course meal for up to 20 patients, the health department pulled the plug on the event.
Cannabis-infused communal dinners are, to borrow McSorley’s phrase, almost passe in other parts of the country, including Portland, Denver and Los Angeles. In these places, dinner party rituals usually include prominent local chefs and bougie people who consume cannabis like they sample wine or gourmet food. There’s even a whole show on Viceland, Bong Appétit, dedicated to infusing professional-quality recipes with weed.
The dinner hosted by Sacred Garden would have been less flashy than its counterparts in bigger cities. For starters, you needed to be one of around 48,000 people with a New Mexico medical cannabis card to attend. You also had to pay $100. And because it was the first event of its kind in New Mexico, Sacred Garden dispensary owner Zeke Shortes says he ran the idea by his attorney, who didn’t think it broke any rules.
“I really want to highlight cannabis in relation or complementary to food, and how you could incorporate it into your meals as well. It’s not just something you smoke or vaporize or whatnot,” Shortes told SFR almost a month before the dinner was scheduled to happen.
Mary Hanson, the lead chef at Sacred Garden who prepared the entire menu herself, described the upcoming dinner as “a little nice thing to do for not only our customers but any other person [who] might have a card.”
The menu featured an appetizer of smoked salmon and goat cheese along with a mushroom-stuffed pastry and other tasty spreads; a choice of a chicken or beef main entree with creamy potatoes au gratin, greens and a sliced pear salad; and a choice of Irish cream creme brulee or chocolate pot de creme for dessert. “New Mexican Hot Chocolate with CBD infusion” would have capped the night.
The whole meal would have been loaded with about 50 milligrams of THC infused into oils, butters and dressings, which is enough to send most casual smokers floating away. But even weeks before the dinner, Shortes sensed that the health department was about to find some way to spoil it.
In an emailed letter to Shortes dated Oct. 20—the day before the event was scheduled to happen at Body of Santa Fe, a health and wellness center—health department license and compliance manager Martinik Gonzales warned that Body of Santa Fe wasn’t licensed to distribute cannabis, and that it was “unclear … where the preparation of the food for the advertised dinner would occur, and whether Sacred Garden is in compliance with manufacturing requirements.”
Facing possible disciplinary action, Shortes cancelled the event. He’s now requesting a meeting with program director Kenny Vigil, who did not respond to SFR’s request for comment.
“They don’t want to deal with anything new or innovative. They want everything to be real cookie-cutter so no one will beat them up over it potentially,” Shortes complained on Monday.
SFR received a call Friday afternoon from Sacred Garden manager Randy Torres to notify us the event had been cancelled. Torres then called us back a few hours later to let us know of a loophole: They could still give out the dinners if people came to pick them up.
In the end, Shortes says only seven people picked up the meals, including this cardholding reporter.
The three-pronged appetizer followed by baked chicken Kiev and a large helping of creamy potatoes was extremely filling, and we saved the THC-infused dinner rolls and cannabutter and creme brulee for the next day.
It was delicious and dank. But it was also lonely.
“I took one home just to make sure we’re where we want to be with it,”: Shortes said, “and had an amazing meal. But I was sitting by myself.”