More Growth

Senate bill proposes increased plant count for cannabis microbusinesses, among other changes to Cannabis Regulation Act

New Mexico’s Cannabis Control Division last week issued an emergency rule change, temporarily doubling cannabis plant-count limits for producers amid concerns about a potential supply shortage when recreational sales begin in April.

One glaring issue with the division’s rule: Microbusinesses are left out.

The Cannabis Regulation Act, passed last year, defines microbusinesses as producers growing no more than 200 mature plants. Because the limit is set by state statute, CCD’s rule doesn’t affect it, leaving microbusinesses behind as larger companies are able to put more plants in the ground.

But that could soon change.

State Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, on Wednesday introduced Senate Bill 100, which, if passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, would increase the production limit for microbusinesses to 1,000 plants.

Lujan Grisham added the bill to the budget-focused legislative session, which began this week, on Thursday afternoon.

When CCD announced limits would increase from a maximum of 10,000 mature cannabis plants to 20,000, the division also declared its intention to work toward increasing microbusiness production limits.

“Equity and fairness are foundational principles of New Mexico’s vision for the state’s cannabis industry,” CCD Director Kristen Thomson said in a news release. “We will work with legislators and the governor to ensure those values are upheld and that micro producers see increased plant count limits as soon as possible.”

Advocates agree that the move is needed.

“I think it’s essential that microbusinesses be allowed to grow more,” Emily Kaltenbach, chairwoman of the Cannabis Regulatory Advisory Committee and state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, tells SFR. “It’s critical for equity that plant limits be raised when other licensees have had their rates increased.”

Other concerns for microbusinesses trying to break into the industry have surfaced in recent months.

An interim legislative committee approved a $5 million loan program for such businesses in late November, but some new business owners told SFR it’s not as helpful as it aims to be, mostly because loan money won’t be available until March.

On top of the plant increase, SB100 would clarify the process of state and federal criminal history record checks and business location reporting for tax purposes. It would also require that licensees maintain employees’ certificates of completion of mandatory education, which would be open to inspection by CCD.

The Regulation and Licensing Department and the Environment Department would be allowed to enter into a joint powers agreement for inspections of facilities that produce edible and topical cannabis products “to ensure the health and safety” of those facilities, among a few other amendments to the existing act.

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