Leaf Brief

Leaf Brief: Time of the Season

Lawmakers planted the seeds of law changes just in time for spring

It’s the first day of spring, which means us New Mexicans will optimistically sow our collection of seeds only to encounter at least one more cold snap. I won’t pretend to be anything close to a weather expert, but I have eyes and a memory. Regardless, I’ve been told by someone I trust that with some special precautions you should be good to shove at least a couple of your cannabis seeds underground this week and get rewarded with some hearty seedlings. But I’m not going to pretend to be a horticulturist either—I just work here.

SFR offered readers earlier this month a check-in, of sorts, on cannabis legislation, but since the legislative session ended a couple days ago, I can now deliver some definitive results. Keep scrolling...

Win Some, Lose Some

Wrinkles in the cannabis expungement process might get ironed out now that House Bill 314 made it through the legislative labyrinth—with a couple days to spare. If the governor signs it, HB 314 would weed out some of the more complicated expungement cases the automatic process missed and give better access for folks to check on their expungement status.

In the vein of making things easier, Senate Bill 242, survived its trip through the process, which could mean medical cannabis patients will have an easier time renewing their medical cards. Those medical cards are currently good for three years, but patients have to check in with a medical provider once a year during that time. SB142 aims to limit the lifespan of a medical card to two years, but would only require a medical check-in with card renewals.

Of course, many eyes were on Senate Bill 315, which would have specified where some of that sweet, sweet cannabis tax revenue would be put to use. Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, says she mistakenly thought the Legislature would be able to set up funds for drug education and appropriate the money later, but it turns out they both have to be done at the same time. She plans to work on a new bill during the interim session so she can hit the ground running next year.

Money from the Cannabis Excise Tax may be crashing on the general fund’s couch a little longer, but the bipartisan sponsored Senate Bill 147 would exempt the tax from being taxed, assuming the governor signs the measure. Right now the state’s Taxation and Revenue Department applies gross receipts tax to the excise tax, creating what tax wonks call pyramiding. Technically, cannabis businesses only have to pay the taxes that way and aren’t required to pass them along to consumers, but I mean, come on.

Oh, and about that money—the state reported an increase in cannabis sales between January and February. Anyone trying to get their foot in the market without getting licensed-up and paying those taxes, might want to consider there are still consequences for taking part in what used to be considered drug dealing.

House Bill 313, quietly died in the Senate before it could be debated by the Senate Judiciary Committee—its one and only Senate assignment. The bill aimed to make significant changes to the Cannabis Regulation Act, which green-lit lighting the green. The measure would have indexed cultivation limits for cannabis microbusinesses with plant caps for larger producers and given more teeth to state cannabis regulators, created an equity bureau within the Cannabis Control Division and eliminated fees for some producers.

House Bill 429, which tried to put weed back on the list of things not allowed in jails and prisons, didn’t make it to the governor’s desk before noon on Saturday. You read that right: A law to specify that cannabis is not allowed behind bars did not pass. The enactment of the Cannabis Control Act in 2021 meant weed was no longer an illicit substance, but it also meant it was technically not prohibited behind bars.

Hear, Hear

Just in case you’re one of those people who subscribe to, and diligently read, the Leaf Brief but don’t subscribe to its little podcast buddy, check out this month’s episode about talking to your kids about weed. I had a nice chat with Leah Maurer, a mom of three and one of the proprietors of the Weed Blog, about when and how parents should talk about adult-use cannabis with their rugrats. I also checked in with New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program Director Dr. Dominick Zurlo for some guidance about why having those talks and locking up your adult gummies are important.

Zoning Different

The Santa Fe City Council earlier this month approved a cannabis zoning change to address the very specific scenario the Picuris Pueblo encountered last year. See, the pueblo started the process to open a downtown dispensary in a former bank. Before the pueblo finished the process though, an out-of-state company opened a dispensary that some (not me) might consider a stone’s throw away.

State regulators say Picuris didn’t actually finish the application process until after the state’s Cannabis Control Division issued a license to Rocky Mountain Cannabis, a Colorado company.

Picuris’ planned location is about 300 feet from the corner of West Water and Sandoval streets where a Rocky Mountain dispensary sits. The city’s zoning ordinance requires 400 feet between retail spots, but the approved legislation would waive that requirement for tribes and pueblos that apply for a cannabis license before a hypothetical cannabis company yet don’t earn approval until after. As I wrote before: It sounds complicated because it is.

The council unanimously and quickly approved the change during its March 8 meeting.

They Still Don’t Smoke (Non-Medical) Marijuana in Muskogee

It’s back to the drawing board for legalization advocates in Oklahoma after voters in the state with arguably the loosiest and goosiest medical cannabis law overwhelmingly rejected recreational-use. I’ve noted this before, but Oklahoma doesn’t have a list of qualified conditions to choose from when signing up for a card. Instead, would-be patients have to get a doc to vouch that cannabis would help their unspecified medical conditions.

Over to the eastern seaboard and upstate from where they make the worst jarred salsa, cannabis regulators are facing a backlash after prioritizing commercial licenses for those with past pot-related convictions. This is the second time since November that New York has faced a lawsuit over how it’s issuing licenses.

Here’s the late Merle Haggard, one of San Quentin’s most famous former inmates and long-time California resident, singing about what doesn’t go down in Oklahoma.

Word on the Street

I’ve been slacking a bit on getting out into the world and finding cool new things to share, but if you’ve got something for me, drop me a line.

Keep an eye out for SFR’s annual cannabis issue coming out just in time for 4/20, well, April 19, to be exact.

Lastly, kudos to Craig Childs for his latest essay in High Country News for the heartstring-pulling about the upside of water levels dropping for Lake Powell (or reservoir as he points out). As parts of Glen Canyon return to life, he notes this nugget sure to elicit at least a grin from Leaf Brief readers:

“It is, without doubt, erupting with life: On a Dominy bench, alongside rabbitbrush and ricegrass, we found a flaming green cannabis plant. Maybe someone dropped their stash over the side of a houseboat in 1985, letting the seeds sink into anaerobic depths of sediment, where they were preserved until the day when the plant could sprout and its chunky buds glint crystalline in the sun.”

There’s surely a good story behind those seeds, but maybe it’s better to leave that up to our collective imaginations.

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