Leaf Brief

Leaf Brief: January

A whole new year of cannabis news

All politics is local, some politician once said. So, while the nation’s Republican eyes locked on Iowa last week and turn toward New Hampshire for the next stop on the circus parade, New Mexicans can gaze toward the Roundhouse here in Santa Fe, where state legislators have convened to: take on the funding the government (glad we don’t have to worry about a shutdown, huh?); education; and public safety (assault weapons are pretty much documented as UNsafe, right?); among other issues. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham also wants the state to allocate $43 million for beautification. Aren’t we already beautiful? Anyway...

Lawmakers want to tackle cannabis as well, including House Bill 128, filed by Reps. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, and Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, which would increase plant counts for microbusinesses from 200 (boo!) to 500 (yay!).

Rep. Andrea Reeb, R-Clovis, an attorney whose name you may recognize from the period during which she served as special prosecutor in the Rust shooting case, also introduced four bills. They would: require the health department to make specific cannabis-prevention efforts in schools; change packaging requirements to prevent the use of images used to market to minors, such as cartoons and celebrity images; reword the statue on how police treat the odor of cannabis; and expand the Cannabis in Delinquency Act to cover that minors may not buy, attempt to buy, receive or possess cannabis.

And read on for more cannabis news...

Background checks on docket for legislators

State lawmakers are waiting to hear back from the FBI re: the feds allowing background checks on out-of-state applicants for cannabis licenses, Robert Nott writes in the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, asked the FBI to allow the state Regulation and Licensing Department to conduct background checks on businesses and individuals from out of state who apply for a cannabis license, as required by the 2021 Cannabis Regulation Act

“We have submitted proposed language to FBI lawyers, and we are hoping and praying we get some response. That’s kind of all we can do. We can’t force them to do the checks. We’re doing our best to work with them and adjust our language however they want it. They just need to tell us,” she told the newspaper.

Fined and revoked

Earlier this month, the state Cannabis Control Division imposed million-dollar fines and rescinded the licenses for Native American Agriculture Development Co. and Bliss Farms, both in Torrance County.

The CCD cited the Native American Agricultural Development Company for eight violations, including: exceeding the allowable number of cannabis plants; improper security measures; lacking chain of custody procedures; and ill-maintained grounds. Bliss Farm, meanwhile, received 17 violations for too many plants; evidence of a recent harvest without entering records into the tracking system; and other factors that “led the division to conclude the plants were transferred or sold illicitly,” according to a news release.

“The illicit activity conducted at both of these farms undermines the good work that many cannabis businesses are doing across the state,” Clay Bailey, acting superintendent of the Regulation and Licensing Department, says in a statement. “The excessive amount of illegal cannabis plants and other serious violations demonstrates a blatant disregard for public health and safety, and for the law.”

The Leaf reported last month on the legal difficulties besetting NAADC’s Dineh Benally. But Benally’s troubles with the law don’t end there: The Navajo-Hopi Observer reported that Navajo tribal authorities charged Benally and Farley BlueEyes with illegally growing marijuana. David Jordan told the newspaper he expects to represent Benally, who “maintains he was growing hemp and declined to comment further.”

In other regulatory action, CCD officials filed a Notice of Contemplated Action against High 5 Extracts, alleging the Santa Fe company used an underage worker to manufacture cannabis products.

Taos’s newest dispensary has a twist

Taos now has more than a dozen dispensaries, with Liam Easley recently writing about the mountain town’s latest, G’s Ganja, which is owned by Geno Trujillo and managed by his daughter, Autumn Trujillo. The Trujillos, Easley writes in the Taos News, are “attempting to expand their selection by obtaining a license to sell home-grown and homemade products. Should they succeed, [Gene Trujillo] claims they would be the first dispensary in the state to utilize acequias to grow their product.” You might not care how your grower grows your bud, but if you’re familiar with the centuries-old irrigation method, you might smile a little longer knowing your ganja was sustainably watered. Easley adds, “Cannabis has raised lots of money in taxes for the town,” whose officials plan to dedicate $50,000 annually from cannabis tax revenue for its community schools partnership.

NM lands in Top 10 states for cannabis freedom

The Cato Institute, a Libertarian think tank, publishes an annual report assessing the economic, regulatory and personal freedoms among our 50 states. Cara Wietstock writes about the latest assessment, which added cannabis freedom to the other categories. Greenstate.com named the top five states in terms of policy freedom as California, Maine, Alaska, Massachusetts and Arizona. New Mexico placed respectably in eighth. Texas earned a solid 50 out of 50. “Cannabis freedom comes from multiple angles,” Wietstock writes. “The researchers surveyed potential loss consumers and producers incurred because they lived in prohibition states, both in terms of potential tax revenue and access to the plant.”

Shake: Odds and ends from New Mexico and beyond

  • Last year, the Leaf reported on actor Jim Belushi’s cannabis brand being offered at ABQ’s Seven Clovers dispensary. Toby Keith has just thrown his cowboy hat into the ring, according to Drew Groetzka, who reported for Albuquerque Business First that the country music star is expanding his Oklahoma-based Big Dog Cannabis. Seven Clovers is growing Big Dog plants here in the state and selling them in its dispensaries, in compliance with state law.
  • Fruit of the Earth, one of Santa Fe’s legacy dispensaries, announced a change to its hours of operation last month. For the “Wake and Bake” crowd, FOTEO will now open every morning at 8 am—although budtenders get to sleep in a little on Sundays, when the dispensary opens at 11 am.
  • The Leaf first thought Best Daze was offering a sale in recognition of the Legislative session with its graphic this month labeled “Back in Session.” But then we realized it maybe looks more like a chalkboard and that it might be about schools instead because it also says “roll into the semester with style.” We’re not sure. What do you think?
  • It’s time once again for the USDA’s hemp survey. If you’re like the Leaf, you have an extra 5 or 6 acres hanging around, and you’re planning to grow some hemp crop come springtime. The feds want to know your plans, so head over to USDA’s website and get counted. The USDA’s Mountain Region consists of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming. According to a news release, “the total value of hemp production [was] $238 million in 2022. Planted area for industrial hemp grown in the open for all utilizations in the United States totaled 28,314 acres. Area harvested for all utilizations totaled 18,251 acres.”
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