Dale Scott is a medical cannabis patient in Albuquerque, NM.This piece is offered as the opinion of the contributor. Publication does not imply endorsement by The Paper.
As we enter into the final days of the 2021 legislative session debate on the merits of each proposal are heightened and the results are lasting. One of the more crucial debates centers around the salvation of New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program. What the authors of the proposed legislation, and future regulators, fail to consider is that the main hurdle for creating a robust recreational market while protecting the medical market is not plant count, but rather the granting of unlimited recreational cannabis licenses. There has got to be a synergistic approach with respect to plants and licenses. By allowing a limited plant count and unlimited license structure, it essentially leads to the same result; an unlimited, uncontrolled plant count. To elaborate, one person will have a limited plant count but will have the ability to obtain as many licenses as possible. Therefore, the limitation of plants would not truly exist and would create an unintended consequence. Paramount in these discussions has always and rightfully been to hold the medical program harmless. The scheme of unlimited licenses will effectively destroy the efficacy of New Mexico’s medical program, depriving patients of any incentive to stay in the program. It will die as soon as the recreational sales begin under an unlimited license structure. Regulators will find themselves in an impossible situation attempting to monitor and control the market with the granting of unlimited licenses.
When states transition to recreational cannabis, the added tax dollars aid New Mexico and its residents. However, with an unlimited license structure, monitoring and control becomes virtually impossible, and sets the stage for outside sales in the illicit market, threatening the financial gains intended by the proposed legislation. The prices will dip to the lowest in the country and will discourage patients from staying in the medical program. And let us not forget from the onset of these proposals New Mexico was attempting to be the “gold standard” when it came to protecting medical cannabis while launching a recreational program. The current bills are missing this point badly, and the concept of unlimited licenses runs anathema to the preservation of the medical program. Production management and control is thrown out the window when unlimited licenses are permitted to be issued. Contrastly, the micro-licenses are the current key to allowing small business owners into the recreational market and simultaneously bringing production limitations to the state. Micro-licenses put in place manageable plant limitations, bolster the social equity provisions, and bring jobs and economic growth to the rural areas of our state.
If unlimited licenses are enacted, the medical program will suffer the consequences, and New Mexico could become a mecca for fueling the illicit market here and throughout the country. Any producer would be able to “bottom out” the market to a magnitude which we have never seen. As a result, there will be no incentive for any medical patient to stay in the medical program. One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to medical and recreational cannabis is that there is some difference in the plants or the percentage of THC, but there is not. Even the cannabis derived products are 100% the same product, whether it is medical or recreational. The only difference is the dosing which can be adjusted by the producer for either market. At the end of the day, they are the same product and are cultivated and manufactured in the same manner. Price is the differentiating factor, and with a drastic reduction in price the illicit market will thrive. New Mexico will fuel the black market and will provide opportunities for criminal entities to launder funds and operate without controls. By legislating unlimited licenses price will no longer be a factor, the black market will thrive uncontrollably, and the medical cannabis market could suffer a slow death.