This month it’s all about zoning and, you guessed it, the wait for the City of Santa Fe’s new ordinance to go into effect. The state’s cannabis producer license application process—which opened a little over three weeks ago—requires prospective producers to have zoning approval. The city has yet to pass its zoning ordinance but could be issuing approvals under the rules put in place for the state’s medical cannabis program in the interim. That isn’t happening, and the city is instead encouraging people to wait until the new ordinance passes, Land Use planning manager Noah Berke tells SFR. The Planning Commission passed the ordinance—with a proposed rule that microbusinesses with 200 mature plants or fewer would be permitted in several more commercial zones than larger producers—early this month and the City Council is expected to take a decisive vote on Sept. 29. Scroll down for more news from around the state and nation.
The No Zone City of Santa Fe waiting to issue zoning approval for prospective cannabis producers
Score One for the Little Guy Cannabis microbusinesses would be permitted in more zones than large producers in Santa Fe’s effort to promote equity
Ahead of schedule
The Regulation and Licensing Department’s (RLD) Cannabis Control Division (CCD) began accepting producer license applications via an online system on Aug. 25, a week ahead of the deadline. The state says the application is easier to navigate than the one it uses for the medical program, which required producers to submit paper-only applications. “The Cannabis Control Division is committed to making the licensing process as easy as possible while upholding the law and ensuring the integrity of New Mexico’s cannabis industry,” RLD Superintendent Linda Trujillo said in a news release.
Second Judicial District Judge Benjamin Chavez ordered RLD, the Department of Health and the governor’s office to “either change their policy for medical cannabis patient purchase amounts or present a compelling argument for not doing so.” The ruling came after medical cannabis patient Jason Barker filed a petition in court for medical patients to be given the same purchase amounts as non-patients, arguing that the state is effectively discriminating against patients. Chavez ruled in favor of Barker and gave the state until Sept. 20 to respond.
CCD put emergency rules for cannabis manufacturing into place on Sept. 8, citing concerns for worker safety. “Last year two workers were seriously injured in a cannabis manufacturing facility because the company was not following safety best practices,” Trujillo said in a news release, referring to an explosion last October at New MexiCann Natural Medicine in Santa Fe. The rules establish four classes of manufacturing facilities and lay out what processes each class can undertake, as well as safety procedures that must be followed. CCD will take public input on the rules and hold a hearing next month, but “given the urgency of protecting existing workers,” the release states, the rules are already in place.
Drug reform advocates weighed in earlier this month on a draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act, a federal legalization bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). The Marijuana Justice Coalition—with members including the ACLU and the Drug Policy Alliance—sent a letter addressing the proposal, recommending “an approach [to reform] that does not just include reparative justice, health equity, and community reinvestment as a subset of a larger policy reform, but rather an approach where these components are the primary goal.” Other legalization proponents raised concerns related to licensing, tax policy and interstate commerce. Meanwhile, the US Conference of Mayors—of which over 1,400 mayors across the country, representing cities with a population of 30,000 or larger, are members—passed a resolution calling on President Biden to legalize cannabis with a focus on racial equity.
In response to public outcry about the suspension of American runner Sha’Carri Richardson from the Olympics over a positive THC test, the World Anti-Doping Agency will conduct a scientific review of cannabis next year to determine whether it should continue an international ban on use by athletes. The agency said in a news release that it agreed to do the review “following receipts of requests from a number of stakeholders.” The ban on cannabis use will continue through 2022 while the review moves forward.
Cannabis use among college students has continuously risen over the past five years and remained at historically high levels last year among people in the same age group who aren’t in college, according to the results of an annual study supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. There was also an increase in the use of hallucinogens by college students and a significant drop in alcohol use between 2019 and 2020. “The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed the way that young people interact with one another and offers us an opportunity to examine whether drug taking behavior has shifted through these changes,” said Nora Volkow, director of the institute.