Leaf Brief

Leaf Brief

US Health and Human Services Department reschedules; edible makers see first enforcement from NM

Who’s behind what? Can’t tell the players without a scorecard, my dad used to say (and then we’d pick one up for our nosebleed seats high above Shea Stadium), and today’s cannabis landscape is no different. As SFR’s Canna-Connoisseur, I sign up for lots o’ emailed info, and one press release today made me chuckle: It’s from R. Greenleaf, but the first image on clicking the message touted Schwazze’s rewards program, and the main image below that was for (formerly-independent and current addition to Schwazze’s lineup) Everest Cannabis (ooh, $50 for half-ounce of Shake; Hey, Boss, about that expense report...).

Feds: Reclassify cannabis

The major news so far this month (news of the year, or even the decade) was the US Health and Human Services Department’s decision to reschedule cannabis from Schedule 1 (along with heroin, because, sure, pot is just like that), potentially paving the way for nationwide legalization. The Leaf reached out to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for her thoughts on the matter, but so far received no reply. The governor had more pressing matters to attend to, given her attempt to curb gun violence in our state (even if you think it’s unconstitutional, you’ll probably admit doing something is better than nothing).

Our neighbors to the north spoke about the proposal to Marijuana Moment, noting Colorado Gov. Jared Polis commended the US Department of Health and Human Services for the choice.

“It’s about time,” Polis told the outlet. “This is an historic moment and we owe you and your Administration a debt of gratitude for your leadership on catching up with where the science is.” Polis, the story says, was “among the first top officials to react to the HHS recommendation last week, with a spokesperson emphasizing that a Schedule III classification would finally allow state-licensed marijuana businesses to take federal tax deductions, for example.”

Stock analyst Steve Anderson addressed the effect HHS’s proposal to reschedule cannabis had on green stocks on TipRanks: “Generally, the government itself landed on the tightest possible regulation side, and acted accordingly. Now, however, the tables seem to be turning, and that’s sending cannabis stocks on an upward slope...If the SAFE Banking Act goes through, this will allow cannabis operations access to more financial tools, improving their own safety—a lot less cash needing to go through the system—and convenience as well. That’s a pretty big win for an operation that used to have to be largely conducted in back alleys.”

Not everyone is in favor of the proposed schedule change. Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), and 12 Republicans from both chambers argued that any decision to reschedule cannabis “should be based on proven facts and science—not popular opinion, changes in state laws, or the preferred policy of an administration.”

Marijuana Moment’s Kyle Jaeger wrote last week that “the eight GOP senators and six House members evidently distrust the motives behind the HHS recommendation, however, and they argued in the letter, first reported by The Washington Stand, that the current ‘research, science, and trends support the case that marijuana should remain a Schedule I drug.’”

NM: Another record-setting month

Cannabis sales figures reported for August show New Mexico continued to set records with the highest monthly revenue on record since the state legalized adult use and began sales in early 2022. The end-of-summer numbers exceeded $48 million: $34.7 million in recreational and $13.5 million in medical, bringing total sales to nearly $724 million so far. And all those dollar signs continue to build the state’s cannabis star power. Last month, we told you about a visit from Jim Belushi. Now, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong have announced a foray into New Mexico. While they’re working on a new biopic, the duo’s signature strains with names like Love Machine and Low Rider will soon be offer at Dreamz dispensaries.

Enforcement firsts from NMED

Meanwhile, on the safety side of cannabis production, the New Mexico Environment Department’s Cannabis and Hemp Bureau has issued citations to three edible cannabis producers for operating without permits, the first enforcement actions of this kind. (The bureau’s authority includes manufacturing of products meant to be consumed as food and drink, for example.)

The companies charged, Minerva Canna in Bernalillo, Stoned Ape Canna Co. in Carlsbad and Buffalo Bud Farming in Silver City, will appear in state District Court and are facing a $500 penalty for each violation. Keep up with similar actions on the department’s “Enforcement Watch.”

“New Mexico’s growing cannabis industry provides quality jobs to New Mexicans through the legal manufacturing and sale of adult-use edible products,” said NMED Cannabis and Hemp Bureau Chief Johnathan Gerhardt in a statement. “Companies that operate outside of the law by producing cannabis edible products without a permit jeopardize public health and will face fines and legal action.”

CEO Erik Briones fired back at reporting by Corrales Comment Editor TS Last in the Paper., which we cited last month and which described an accident there as an explosion, the same language regulators and first responders used. In a Sept. 13 press release, Briones stated, “an unfortunate accident occurred at our Bernalillo facility involving an employee who suffered 2nd-degree burns due to contact with hot distillate oil when he dropped the beaker and oil splashed back onto him. There was never any threat to other employees or to our facility, thanks to our rigorous safety procedures and the quick response of our team. The injured employee received immediate and efficient medical attention...There was no explosion, no fire, and no equipment malfunction at our facility during this incident or at any other time in our over a decade of operations.”

Shake: Odds and ends from New Mexico and beyond

  • Police stopped a truck driver on Interstate 40 in Gallup, and when they searched the back, they found marijuana–duffel bags full of it. “The driver, Tewelde Ghebreyoyanes, told officers he didn’t check what was inside the trailer he was hauling,” writes KRQE. “After police searched the truck and trailer, they found stacks of money, 70 duffle bags weighing about 3,500 pounds, a medium bag weighing 16 pounds and seven boxes weighing 55 pounds; all filled with marijuana and no paperwork, or indication of where it came from.” Ghebreyoyanes told police he was driving from California to Virginia. He said he normally checks outside and inside the trailer, but when he picked up this one, he claimed he didn’t look inside. That’s not exactly “I’m holding this for a friend,” but it’s not like he was hauling classified documents from the White House to Florida.
  • And if you wonder if safety is over-emphasized by some industry/government officials, Missouri officials recalled 60,000 cannabis products. Thomas Edward reported in High Times that no adverse reactions for the product had been reported to the Division of Cannabis Regulation, “but the agency says that all patients and consumers ‘who have purchased the recalled product should discontinue use.’” Missouri has offered medical cannabis since October 2020, and rec use was launched this February.
  • Sunland Park, way down on the border near El Paso, received lots of attention this week for being a tiny city with the state’s second largest sales, landing on the front page of The Santa Fe New Mexican with the headline “Texans two-step across border to fill Sunland Park’s cannabis dispensaries” and in The Rolling Papers.
  • Cannabis Business Times crunched the numbers and showed some hefty revenue results for the top dozen green states. Michigan ($276 million) is the clear leader, and the top four states (Michigan, Illinois, Massachusetts and Missouri) are each north of $100M in revenue. New Mexico’s per capita annual sales of $259, however, is one of the highest around. That’s a lot of green!

The new guy

Joseph Fatton is a writer, editor and animal advocate; he and his wife, Dr. Rose Antonelli-Fatton, run Blue Rose of Hope Animal Sanctuary in Springer. He’s a former SFR copy editor who is trying his hand at Leaf Brief. Like what you read? Send him a note or an idea by hitting reply.

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