Dominick Zurlo has returned to the Medical Cannabis Program as co-director at a busy time: A mysterious lung illness has led the Department of Health to issue a warning to avoid THC vaping after 13 suspected cases were found in the state. The Medical Cannabis Program is in the midst of a court case that, so far, is allowing out-of-state patients to join the program. And the state Legislature is investigating recreational cannabis legalization, which will undoubtedly impact the program. SFR caught up with Zurlo to talk about his goals and vision for MCP's future. Keep scrolling for this and more news on cannabis from New Mexico and the region.

Zurlo Returns to MCP
Dominick Zurlo, who managed the state medical cannabis program from 2008 to 2011, rejoined the group as co-director with Kenny Vigil in August.

Regional News

Gov’s work group releases legalization plan

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's working group on cannabis legalization has released its initial recommendations for the program leading into the upcoming 30-day Legislative session.

The suggestions include a 17% tax rate, which is somewhat lower than most other recreational states, state licensing guidelines, testing and labeling rules and a plan to use some of the revenue to fund medical cannabis.

Legalization efforts still face opposition in the Legislature, however, and the tight 30-day session itself could be an issue. If the bill doesn't pass, Grisham has said the effort to legalize will continue in the 2021 60-day session.

Drug Policy Alliance applauds working group plan

The Drug Policy Alliance, which participated in Gov. Grisham's working group on cannabis legalization, touted several aspects of the plan and offered its endorsement.

Specific highlights include: An effort to allow people with prior controlled substance violations to participate in cannabis business, automatic expungement of cannabis possession convictions, revenues to help communities and small business, low licensing fees to allow more small business into the market, and decriminalizing home grow of six or fewer plants.

Safe Access NM sees flaw in working group plan

Safe Access New Mexico is taking issue with part of the recommendations from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's working group on cannabis legalization. Page 9 of the report calls for a combined medical and recreational system.

The group opposes a combined system because users of medical cannabis are very different from users of recreational cannabis, and the concern is that medical systems and the needs of patients will be disrupted by recreational commerce.

DOH orders labeling of THC vaping products

The state Department of Health, along with issuing a warning for residents to avoid THC vaping, has ordered new labeling for medical THC vapes in the state.

The order requires all THC vaping products in the Medical Cannabis Program be labeled with the following: "WARNING: Vaping cannabis-derived products containing THC has been associated with cases of severe lung injury, leading to difficulty breathing, hospitalization and even death."

As of Oct. 4, the state has tracked 15 suspected cases that may be tied to a national outbreak affecting both THC and nicotine vapes that has killed 18 people and led to about 1,080 reported lung injury cases.

Around the Web

Oregon bans all flavored vapes for six months

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order for a six month ban on all flavored vaping products in the state, starting on Oct. 15, but a court case filed by three vape manufacturers may delay or stop the ruling.

The ban includes natural and artificial flavoring for both nicotine and THC vapes. Natural terpene flavoring from tobacco or cannabis itself, however, does not fall under the ban. That means companies can still have cannabis-flavored vapes.

The Oregon Health Authority also filed temporary rules requiring health providers and hospitals to specifically report deaths and hospitalizations that are due to "vaping-associated lung injury."

Nation’s first “Cannabis Cafe” opens in Los Angeles

The first "cannabis cafe" in the United States opened in Los Angeles on Oct. 1.

The Lowell Cafe is owned and operated by Lowell Farms, a popular pre-roll joint grower and manufacturer in Hollywood. It is the first of eight cannabis cafes planned for the area.

The cafes will offer a selection of cannabis that can be smoked, vaped, eaten or dabbed. People can also bring their own cannabis. Customers can rent bongs, pipes and other smoking equipment. The cafes also have a wide selection of food aimed at cannabis consumers.

Edibles, extracts now legal in Canada

In the next stage of Canada's recreational cannabis legalization process, the country is now allowing cannabis vapes, extracts and edibles.

The rules went into effect on Oct. 17, but Health Canada requires a 60-day notice before new products are released on the market. That means the earliest those products will be available is mid-December.