Leaf Brief

Leaf Brief

Greetings and Happy Croptober to all! We hope your scissors are sticky and your pantries are full. Here’s this month’s cannabis news from SFR:

Q & A with CCD Director Todd Stevens

The CCD appointed Todd Stevens as its new director in late August, and as soon as he unpacked from the trip down from Colorado, he answered a few of the Leaf’s questions:

What similarities do you see between New Mexico’s cannabis culture and Colorado’s?

Colorado has the advantage of having 10 years of adult use cannabis legalization, but just like New Mexico, it faced growing pains and has dealt with some of the same challenges we face like illicit market activity and out-of-state products. New Mexico’s…low barrier of entry…allows everyone a seat at the table. I’m excited to see what these entrepreneurial folks can bring to the New Mexico cannabis culture.

What’s your reaction to the HHS recommendation for the DEA to reclassify cannabis to Schedule III?

It’s business as usual for all of our cannabis licensees, consumers, and patients. I am glad to see that it is being talked about at the federal level, but at this point…it’s too early to tell what, if anything, will happen

Regulating license-holders is an ongoing effort. Can you comment on the state’s increased activity regulating cannabis companies?

[In July,] we hired seven new compliance officers, bringing our total to 13. These officers have hit the ground running and are picking things up quickly…We continue to complete spot inspections, investigate complaints from the community, and…find noncompliant actors and bring them into compliance…[Our] compliance officers are out in the field each day inspecting New Mexico cannabis businesses, and I’m confident in the work they’re doing to ensure this market is well regulated. However, regarding the number of compliance officers, more will always be better.

What are the state’s policies about cannabis license-holders who are bad actors in other state programs? (For example, SFR’s sister paper in Oregon, Willamette Week, has written about Oregon’s secretary of state resigning after her connection to La Mota, a cannabis chain in the state.)

We review all applications for license holders equally and carefully…to limit bad faith actors who attempt to enter New Mexico adult use cannabis market.We perform in-state background checks and require licensees to attest that they are not convicted of a crime in another state that would prevent them from getting a New Mexico cannabis license…The Division may issue fees, suspend, or revoke a license depending on the severity of the violations.

Can you talk about striking a balance between expanding the industry’s growth and ensuring consumer safety?

We want to create a regulated, compliant, safe cannabis market for New Mexicans. If we can create this, the market will expand naturally as we will be able to remove the illicit, bad faith actors, creating a more healthy, stable, and level playing field…We’re also encouraging New Mexico cannabis consumers to know what to look for regarding out-of-state or illicit cannabis products. Products should include the division-approved labeling, including the approved THC logo, product name, potency, license number of the business and test results from a New Mexico cannabis testing lab. Items without this labeling are suspect and should be reported to the Cannabis Control Division via our online complaint form.

Finally, New Mexico is one of the few states that has an official state question. When it comes to chile, do you prefer red or green?

Why choose between red and green when you can have Christmas every day?

Industry alliance proposes decrim equity approach

The recent announcement that the US Drug Enforcement Administration proposes descheduling cannabis has led to a lot of activity by the industry’s movers and shakers. Earlier this month, a group of advocacy groups and cannabis officials announced a three-prong approach to ensuring an equitable transition to decriminalization.

On Oct. 5, United for Marijuana Decriminalization released a report detailing how the Biden administration can decriminalize marijuana equitably. The group stated that shifting to Schedule 3 alone will not affect people currently incarcerated for marijuana, nor will it expunge the record of former victims of the federal war on drugs.

UMD proposes these three steps:

  • “Stop the harm” with guidelines for law enforcement, including deprioritizing prosecutions for marijuana, reducing sentences and ending marijuana-related deportations.
  • “Repair the harm” by expanding pardons and commutations for all cannabis convictions and restoring benefits for those with previous convictions.
  • “Support legalization” to protect public health, consumers and workers, and support small businesses to prevent monopolization by Big Pharma, tobacco and alcohol.

UMD includes representatives from Drug Policy Alliance, Minority Cannabis Business Association, National Cannabis Industry Association, Parabola Center for Law and Policy, Better Organizing to Win Legalization, National Association of Black Cannabis Lawyers, and Marijuana Justice. The alliance also launched DecriminalizeMarijuana.com, an advocacy website.

Now serving in your neighborhood

Cannabis retail continues to flourish in Santa Fe. Check out these new shops:

Santa Fe Craft Cannabis is now doing business at 607 Cerrillos Road, across the street from Chicago Dog. It’s open seven days a week. Amber Wojcik and John Flehmer of Durango, Colo. opened the location in September 2023.

Picuris Pueblo has launched The Santa Fe Dispensary at 100 W. Alameda; they say their dispensary is “rooted in deep heritage, spiritual traditions, and legacy.”

Black Powder Dispensary plans to open this week on 2859 Cerrillos Road (near Siler Road). Santa Fe’s newest pot shop is owned by US Army veteran Daniel Mulcahy, who hails from Chicago. (How could he pass up on a location near Chicago Dog? Maybe expansion is in the works or they can swap with SF Craft Canna.)

Green Directory: Not sure where to shop? SFR has the details on all the area dispensaries

Shake: Odds and ends from New Mexico and beyond

  • Drew Goretzka reported in Albuquerque Business First on Oct. 18 dispensary chain Dreamz will acquire Sawmill Cannabis Co., “setting the stage for Dreamz to become the third-largest dispensary owner in New Mexico.” Chris Tapia, CEO of Sawmill, said being acquired by a larger company was always the plan when the company opened its first stores in June 2022. Dreamz will secure seven retail locations, three manufacturing sites and a cultivation facility. Sawmill’s dispensaries are in Albuquerque and Los Lunas. Dreamz has a shop at 3256 Cerrillos Road as well as dispensaries from Farmington to Las Cruces. Tapia expects more acquisitions between New Mexico cannabis companies in the coming years due to the saturated market.

  • While the US House seems unable to get its act together (“A Speaker, a Speaker, my kingdom for a speaker…”), the Senate Banking Committee is moving ahead with banking reformation, allowing cannabis corporations access to the nation’s banking industry, no strings attached. According to Chris Roberts, writing in MJBizDaily on Oct. 13, the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation Banking Act was voted out of committee, 14-9, and is headed to the Senate floor. But as Roberts noted, “Nearly all business in Congress is frozen until there’s a resolution to the ongoing palace drama in the House of Representatives.” SAFER Banking, he writes, will “provide protections from federal prosecution for financial institutions offering services to state-legal marijuana businesses.” He added, “If SAFER Banking can’t get through the Senate and the House and to President Joe Biden’s desk before March [when 2024 primaries start], the chances this Congress can pass the bill will diminish significantly.”

  • The CCD has announced more proposed amendments to the state’s weed rules. Under revised regs, CCD will charge a flat fee of $1,000 per year for integrated cannabis microbusiness licenses (currently, firms with fewer than 100 plants pay $500). CCD is also proposing charging $75 to amend a license and changes to rules about New Mexico companies’ use of packaging originally created to comply with regulations in another state. Comment online now, or get thee to the public hearing on the proposal at 9 am, Nov. 13 at the Anaya Office Building, 2550 Cerrillos Road.

  • Ever get a nice hefty tax refund? Nice, isn’t it? Not as nice (or as hefty) as the rebate multistate marijuana company Trulieve Cannabis Corp. is seeking. The Florida-headquartered firm has requested a tax refund of $143 million, saying it “believes it does not owe” the taxes it paid over three years. (I guess it doesn’t hurt to ask.) “This determination is supported by legal interpretations that challenge the company’s tax liability under Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code,” Trulieve said in a news release. The tax law in question has some analysts claiming cannabis companies have overpaid the feds more than $1.8 billion, according to a report by Portland, Oregon-based cannabis-sector analysts Whitney Economics. However, 280E’s burden on the sector could be eliminated if the DEA reschedules the plant.
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