Leaf Brief

Leaf Brief: No Go for Micros

Senate bill that would’ve raised plant count for microbusinesses dies

Cannabis microbusinesses were among the losers at the Roundhouse in the most recent session. A Senate bill that would’ve raised the plant count for such businesses died during this year’s budget-focused legislative session, which ended last week. The state used its rulemaking process to temporarily increase counts for large producers amid concerns about a potential supply shortage, but left the smaller businesses governed only by statute.

“We’re trying to remove all the barriers so they actually have a chance at success in a super competitive, highly regulated industry and you’re kicking the legs out from underneath them,” Ben Lewinger, executive director of the state Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, tells SFR. On top of raising the production limit for micros from 200 to 1,000 plants, the bill also would’ve clarified tax reporting and required business owners to maintain employees’ certificates of completion of mandatory education, among other changes.

And late last month, we spoke with a couple of local businesses who are preparing for rec. One, called Endo, is owned and operated by a local family finishing renovations on a 10,000-square-foot building on Siler Road. If approved by the city and state, it’ll be home to four grow rooms, a processing space and a retail storefront. Ian Aarons, the company’s managing director, says he hopes to start growing in the next month or two. Down in Edgewood, Roadrunner Manufacturing, which opened in 2018 and offers CBD products, got a production license in December. CEO Bob Boylan says he thinks microbusinesses, including Roadrunner, can set themselves apart from large operators through customer service.

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Green Market

Santa Fe could have double the dispensaries pending approval of about a dozen cannabis license applications

More Growth

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

Local additions

With recreational sales a little over a month away, more offerings are popping up in Santa Fe. Minerva Canna has a new dispensary on East Water Street—its second location in the city—and is also offering on-site consumption at its original location on Cerrillos Road. Medical patients can stop in and enjoy edibles or THC-infused drinks. Everest Cannabis Co.—which operates in Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Los Lunas—also announced plans to open its first location in Santa Fe next month. When the adult-use market opens, “we know Santa Fe will really appreciate the wealth of knowledge and diversity of products that we have been providing to our patients since we opened our first dispensary’s doors,” CEO Trishelle Kirk said in a news release.

Open retail

The City of Albuquerque announced on Feb. 10 that it’s now accepting online applications for cannabis retail locations. All dispensaries operating in the city are required to obtain approval from the Planning Department. Completed applications that comply with city zoning regulations, separation requirements and other relevant rules will be verified and approved on a first-come, first-served basis. New Mexico’s legalization scheme allows municipalities to regulate the time and place of cannabis sales. Albuquerque mandates that dispensaries be at least 300 feet from schools and 600 feet from other dispensaries. City officials are seeking input on the industry via an online form.

Vote for the best

This year, SFR has added a cannabis section to the Best of Santa Fe reader poll. Nominations for eight categories—including Best Budtender, Best Cannabis Product and Best Dispensary—are open until March 15. The six nominees with the highest number of nominations move on to the final ballot in May, so show some love for your local favorites. And if you’re a business owner, get to campaigning! Ask your friends and family to nominate you, post on social media and offer special discounts to customers who help your campaign.

Big plans

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, announced at a news conference late last month that he hopes to formally file his bill to federally legalize cannabis in April. Schumer released a draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act last July. Beyond ending prohibition, Schumer said he wants to create opportunities for smaller operators and ensure that large alcohol and tobacco companies can’t dominate the industry. “If any senators have other ideas that they want to add to the bill, as long as it keeps social and economic justice as the spearhead, we’re happy and willing to listen,” he said. On the same day as the news conference, the House passed a large-scale bill containing the bipartisan Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act, focused on protecting financial institutions that work with cannabis businesses in states where it’s legal.

Hemp by the numbers

The US Department of Agriculture last week released the results of a first-ever federal survey on the hemp industry, analyzing its economic impact. The survey—based on responses from 25,501 growers—found that the hemp market’s value hit $824 million in 2021, with about 54,200 acres grown nationwide. “The release of this landmark report provides a needed benchmark about hemp production to assist producers, regulatory agencies, state governments, processors, and other key industry entities,” USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service Administrator Hubert Hamer said in a news release. “Not only will these data guide USDA agencies in their support of domestic hemp production, the results can also help inform producers’ decisions about growing, harvesting, and selling hemp as well as the type of hemp they decide to produce. The survey results may also impact policy decisions about the hemp industry.” The New Mexico Legislature passed a bill in 2019 authorizing the state Department of Agriculture to oversee the cultivation of hemp plants.

High aspirations

A Louisiana Democratic US Senate candidate went viral last month after smoking a blunt in a campaign ad that spotlights the harms of criminalization. Sitting in an armchair in a field, Gary Chambers lists statistics, including that Black people are four times more likely to be arrested on marijuana-related charges than white people, and states spend $3.7 billion enforcing marijuana laws every year. “For too long, candidates have used the legalization of marijuana as an empty talking point in order to appeal to progressive voters,” Chambers said in a news release. “I hope this ad works to not only destigmatize the use of marijuana, but also forces a new conversation that creates the pathway to legalize this beneficial drug, and forgive those who were arrested due to outdated ideology.” Chambers is running against Republican Sen. John Kennedy, who hasn’t backed any cannabis-related legislation since taking office in 2017.

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