Hemp growing was a mixed bag for New Mexico farmers in 2019, with the feel of a gold rush and an assortment of seedy characters offering bad advice. But a new educational conference in Santa Fe hopes to address those issues and help budding young farmers get a leg up on the industry.

Plus, scroll down for links to the proposed bill that would legalize recreational cannabis use in New Mexico and more…

Hemp for Victory
Conference targets next season's hemp farmers to overcome troubles of first harvest

Regional News

Lawmakers introduce cannabis legislation

Democratic state lawmakers Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino and Rep. Javier Martinez filed the 2020 comprehensive cannabis reform bill in the state Legislature on Jan. 15. It would legalize recreational cannabis and includes a number of social justice reforms.

If the legislation makes it to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's desk, she has said she will sign it, and she has been pushing for legalization through a cannabis working group over the past year. Polls indicate about 75% of New Mexico's population supports legalization, although lawmakers have given the package about a 50-50 shot.

Medical cannabis signups crest 80,000

More than 80,000 patients signed up for the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program before the end of 2019, with a total of 80,257 on the books at the end of December.

The amount is a 19% increase—or 12,683 more people—compared with December 2018, and includes 421 out-of-state participants. Most of those patients were allowed to join after a court ruled that the legislation had a loophole that opened it up to non-state residents. The majority of non-state patients are from Texas, with others coming from Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, Michigan and Louisiana.

The number includes 9,246 medical cannabis patients in Santa Fe County.

Medical cannabis causing water issues

Two rural water supply systems in Sandoval County say they're worried that cannabis growers are depleting their supply.

The Peña Blanca Water and Sanitation District and Sile Mutual Domestic Water and Sewer Association sent a letter to state agencies and legislators in December with their concerns. The systems, which serve 448 and 154 people respectively, noted that while households use about 3,000 gallons of water a month, one cannabis farm in Peña Blanca is using 20,000 gallons of domestic water a month that has been designated for residents.

The board delayed the vote due to a lack of a quorum. Chairwoman Laura Brown was the only board member to attend the last meeting and she was forced to postpone several agenda items for at least 30 days. The groups are asking that all cannabis growers applying for a license show proof that they have water rights.

Around the Web

‘High Times’ goes retail

The company, which also runs Cannabis Cup competitions across the country, said the stores will provide cross-marketing opportunities in two of the most active cannabis-using cities in the country. Officials said they've signed binding letters of intent with a license holder in each city.

The stores will sell memorabilia like hats and shirts, and a variety of cannabis products, including local strains that have won Cannabis Cup awards.

Product testing concerns in Minnesota cannabis

An audit by the Minnesota Department of Health found several issues with the state's medical cannabis program that could also be problematic as the state looks to legalize recreational cannabis through its legislature.

Among the issues, the audit found that the medical program was not verifying physicians licenses, documenting eligibility, ensuring lab testing contracts or using proper quality control for testing and tracking.

Jan Malcolm, the Minnesota Department of Health commissioner, told the Minnesota Legislative Audit Commission her department plans to address the problems.

Rhode Island legalization

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo has introduced a proposal to legalize recreational cannabis in his state budget plan released Jan. 16.

The $10.2-billion tax-and-spending plan would start on July 1, 2020, with the first stores opening and sales beginning on March 21, 2021. State stores would be operated by private contractors, with the state selecting the location, price and potency of products.

Under the proposal, recreational customers can purchase one ounce of cannabis per day.