Since June 29, New Mexico dispensaries were no longer able to carry any products containing hemp or CBD imported from out of state, per a letter from the state Department of Health.

The letter cites the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act as a reason for the crackdown, but local dispensary managers say it's a bad-faith interpretation. And they've had to toss thousands of dollars worth of product to be in compliance.

On June 25, New Mexico Cannabis Chamber of Commerce Board President Robert Munro asked the Department of Health in a letter to extend the June 29 deadline by 30 days so that the chamber could "work with your office directly to better understand the seriousness of the [CBD/hemp ban] and the potentially devastating impact on New Mexican patients and the medical cannabis industry's ability to meet crucial demand."

Munro adds in the letter that it can take between 50 and 60 pounds of plants to produce a single gallon of CBD oil, and that there are "currently no New Mexico sources from which hemp plants can be obtained," meaning that the ban would lead to either a severe shortage of CBD products or producers devoting "a disproportionate amount of their resources to the creation of CBD products, and thereby reduce the availability or increase the cost of THC products needed by patients." (Regulations for New Mexico-grown hemp likely won't be ready until October.)

Patients would suffer under either scenario, Munro writes, but the health department did not grant the extended deadline. Dispensary staff who spoke with SFR say the ban is already taking both a financial and personal toll.

The Health Department "just put it out with no public meeting or anything," complains Zeke Shortes, owner of the Sacred Garden dispensary in Santa Fe.

Although Sacred Garden opened a separate store last month, Sacred Wellness, to sell CBD and hemp to non-cardholders, medical cannabis patients are no longer able to buy tinctures in the dispensary made with a mix of THC and CBD, which Shortes says he sourced from outside New Mexico. He says his patients report those concoctions as among the most effective he sells.

Another dispensary in town, Fruit of the Earth, is in a similar situation, operating a CBD wellness store outside the purview of the Health Department next to its dispensary for cardholders.

To me, [the CBD ban] is not in the spirit of the Lynn and Erin Compassion Act,” says Lyra Barron, owner of Fruit of the Earth. She says the dispensary imported hemp from Colorado before June 29.

“The Department of Health has now suddenly decided to interpret the [transport] of hemp across state lines as not allowable. To me, that’s not in the spirit of the act. They were not talking about hemp in the act,” she argues. 

Even if they think it's unfair, though, selling CBD or hemp imported from outside New Mexico can carry serious penalties now. The Health Department even alluded to potential criminal prosecution in its letter.

For that reason Josh Alderete, a dispensary manager at New Mexicann Natural Medicine, says he and his colleagues are trying to follow the letter of the law.

The ban, Alderete says, “is affecting us huge, because we breed a lot of THC strains and there are people who aren’t into getting high, and the more CBD you have, the less psychoactive it is,” he says. “Stuff we carry like dermal packages, chocolates: All things we can no longer provide and offer for patients.”

Opening up a separate shop for CBD products outside the regulation of the Health Department, as Sacred Garden and Fruit of the Earth have done, isn't practical right now, Alderete tells SFR.

“We don’t have enough money to open a new facility [for non-patients], so we’re just going to be obedient and comply with it, for sure,” he says.

Has the Department of Health's crackdown on out-of-state hemp and CBD affected you? If so, please get in touch at aaron@sfreporter.com.