Leaf Brief

Leaf Brief: Leveling the Playing Field (kind of)

Cannabis microbusiness loan program gets approval but issues remain

Happy holidays, y’all. We very much hope you’re having a safe and joyous season.

Let’s talk about equity. New Mexico’s law legalizing cannabis calls for the state to promote participation in the industry by people whose communities have been disproportionately impacted by prohibition, so, the committee advising the Cannabis Control Division has been crafting recommendations around the subject. As part of the committee’s effort to seek public input on social and economic equity, a survey went out, the results of which Chairwoman Emily Kaltenbach presented earlier this month. Respondents said a lack of access to capital is the biggest industry barrier.

One possible solution to that? A loan program for microbusinesses from the New Mexico Finance Authority that will provide individual applicants—prioritizing those from rural areas or communities that were harmed by the drug war—with up to $250,000 for start-up costs. But loans aren’t expected to go out until March, a mere month before rec sales are set to begin. That’s a problem for business owners trying to get in on the ground floor, including Jonathan LeDuc, a budtender at Fruit of the Earth Organics who’s planning to open the first dispensary in Los Alamos, called Wheeed.

Scroll down for more news from around the state and nation.

Money to Grow

Cannabis microbusiness loan program aims to level inequity but people entering the industry say timing is terrible

Fair Play

Cannabis equity survey respondents say access to capital is biggest industry barrier

Licenses galore

The Cannabis Control Division announced last week that it issued the first cannabis business licenses. Mother’s Meds in Aztec, run by father-and-sons team Steve, Mitchell and Tony Martinez, was awarded the very first producer license. The first micro-producer licenses went to Carver Family Farm in Albuquerque and BAUDABOOMZ2 in Edgewood. The state has received over 120 producer licenses, according to a department spokeswoman. Also this month, on Dec. 7, the division announced that it’s now accepting applications for all cannabis license types, including manufacturing and retail. Prior to the announcement, the division had only been taking producer license applications.

Labor debate

A proposal that, if approved by Regulation and Licensing Department Superintendent Linda Trujillo, would make labor peace agreements a condition of licensure was met with pushback at a Dec. 1 hearing, according to a story from Andy Lyman over at the New Mexico Political Report. Cannabis business owners would be required to enter into agreements with labor unions, but the unions wouldn’t be able to organize protests against the business. Only one person, Timo Serna, spoke in favor of labor agreements, but he didn’t agree with the details of this particular proposal. Serna, who said he plans to open a microbusiness, argued that prohibiting strikes strips power from workers. All the other participants, including Duke Rodriguez of Ultra Health, argued that the proposal would be a regulatory overstep. “This mandate is punitive to a new industry,” Rodriguez said. “How would other industry professionals respond if labor peace agreements were mandated for every license RLD currently manages? There would be an uproar.”

Safe banking

Attorney General Hector Balderas announced last week that New Mexico-based U.S. Eagle Federal Credit Union is the nation’s first financial institution to receive certification for cannabis and hemp banking protocols. “The marijuana industry will soon be exploding in New Mexico, and it is important to have banking safeguards to mitigate illicit and criminal conduct,” said Balderas. “This is an important first step in partnering with legally compliant businesses in the marketplace.” State and federal agencies accept the certification model—overseen by the nonprofit Policy Center for Public Health and Safety—as the standard of compliance, and for putting in place risk-mitigating strategies.

A first for Europe

The Parliament of Malta last Tuesday approved a bill legalizing the cultivation and personal use of cannabis, making it the first European Union country to do so. Adults will be permitted to carry up to seven grams, grow no more than four plants and keep up to 50 grams of flower at home. “Malta can be a model for harm reduction,” said Owen Bonnici, Malta’s minister for equality, research and innovation who introduced the bill, which also allows people with criminal records from cannabis to apply for expungement. Opponents, including Marica Cassar, a spokeswoman for a local Catholic charity, said the law would popularize cannabis, “a mind-altering substance that will cause problems in our society.” But government officials say it’s meant only to protect those who choose to use the drug, with the creation of a regulatory body.

Lack of action

Joining a chorus of lawmakers urging the Biden administration to take action on cannabis reform, a pair of Republican congressmen sent President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris a letter last week criticizing their “continued silence.” In their letter, Reps. Dave Joyce (R-OH) and Don Young (R-AK) discuss the “significant research restrictions” caused by marijuana’s Schedule 1 classification. Despite campaigning on a pro-decriminalization and pro-descheduling platform, Biden hasn’t spoken about his cannabis campaign pledges since the election.

Massive brownie

Massachusetts-based cannabis company MariMed made the biggest weed brownie the world has ever seen, unveiled on Dec. 8—National Brownie Day. It weighs 850 pounds, stands 15 inches tall and contains 20,000 milligrams of THC. Because that’s the greatest amount allowable for medical cannabis patients in Massachusetts, the company said it wants to sell the brownie to an interested patient. The largest brownie recorded in the Guinness World Records book weighed 243 pounds, but Guinness rejected MariMed’s entry because it reportedly doesn’t accept cannabis-related entries. (Boo!)

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