Medical cannabis producers warn of coming shortage

You’d expect the news to be somewhat anticlimactic after last week’s announcement that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the Cannabis Regulation Act into law, finally making it legal for adults over 21 to purchase and possess recreational cannabis—but it looks like we might be facing a serious problem over the next few years if the state’s cannabis supply issue isn’t addressed.

Some producers are saying that the state is currently facing a supply crisis in the summer that will only get worse when recreational sales begin next year. Leaders in the medical cannabis community like Ultra Health CEO Duke Rodriguez have been sounding the alert for many years, but their concerns have largely been ignored by the Department of Health.

Last week a number of medical cannabis producers signed a letter to state health officials raising concerns that on June 29—when the law officially kicks in but before recreational sales start in 2022—medical cannabis patients will have higher purchase limits than they do now.

According to the letter—which is signed by representatives of Ultra Health, G&G Genetics, Budding Hope, Kure and Sacred Garden—the current patient purchasing limit of 230 grams in a rolling 90-day period is nullified by the new law. The letter cites language in the law that allows a “person” over 21 to purchase and “obtain” two ounces of cannabis, 16 grams of cannabis extract and 800 milligrams of edible cannabis “at one time.” The law does not limit how much cannabis a person can store at their home—only the amount they can carry on their person or in a vehicle. As the producers point out, a cannabis patient is still defined as “person.”

The letter also alludes to language in the law that states that retailers are allowed to continue operating under the rules set up by the state’s medical cannabis program, “except that a qualified patient, a primary caregiver and a reciprocal participant shall not be prohibited from purchasing and obtaining cannabis products pursuant to the medical cannabis program.” The authors’ interpret this language to mean that, “Patients have no purchase limitations whatsoever and that on June 29, 2021, state regulators cannot prohibit patients from purchasing as much cannabis as they wish.”

The letter asks the state’s medical cannabis officials to raise the producer plant limit from the current 1,750 plants to 2,750 plants. But it says that the limit ultimately needs to be removed. “While not sufficient, an additional 1,000 plants per producer would be the lowest amount the DOH could possibly consider. … If patients can purchase an amount of two ounces of cannabis, 16 grams of cannabis extract and 800 milligrams of edible cannabis ‘at one time’ … then the purchase limit would potentially be unlimited, similar to other medications.”

Schumer Teases Legalization Bill

Last week Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters that he would soon be introducing a federal legalization bill.

“I’m for it … and a large majority of my caucus is for it,” he said, “but it’s also getting some support from places you wouldn’t expect. The Libertarian Right is for it. And there was a referendum in a very conservative state—South Dakota—and they voted to legalize.”

He added that the bill, which he is working on along with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), is on its way. “I am going to put this bill on the floor soon,” he said. “Once it is introduced, it will go on the floor.”

Not much is known about the bill. Last month Schumer, Booker and Wyden released an awkward video of themselves discussing the bill in Washington D.C. The trio avoided directly discussing the bill’s contents, but spoke against racial inequity found in the current cannabis laws. They also mentioned wanting to restrict alcohol and tobacco companies from overtaking a legal cannabis market and making room for small businesses to claim a stake in the new industry.

Last year, while President Joe Biden was on the campaign trail, Schumer promised to introduce cannabis law reform legislation if Trump lost the election. Since then, he has repeated his position that cannabis should be decriminalized or legalized.

Although Biden has called marijuana a “gateway drug” as recently as the 2019 primaries and has yet to fulfill promises to decriminalize the drug, Booker recently told reporters that the president is “on board” with federal legalization.

During an interview on the podcast Hell and High Water, the senator attempted to assuage former Biden supporters who have been disillusioned by the president’s seeming unwillingness to address the matter and his role in writing some of the laws that currently imprison cannabis users.

“I’m thrilled by the Biden administration,” he told the show’s host. “I know the Biden administration is committed to doing a lot of reforms.” He reminisced about a time when his marijuana reform bills received snickers from lawmakers and compared it to today’s overwhelming support. He then called Biden a great partner in cannabis reform.

The statement has the ring of irony to it, considering Booker blasted Biden on his views of cannabis during the Democratic primaries. “This week I hear [Biden] literally say, ‘I don’t think we should legalize marijuana,’” he said at the time. “I thought you might have been high when you said it.”

US Sees Legalization Spree

We’ve been so anxious to see New Mexico become the next state to legalize recreational cannabis that we may have missed a trend that’s been burning across the nation this year.

Mere days before Lujan Grisham signed the recreational cannabis bill, the governors of New York and Virginia signed similar legislation. With our state, that brings the total number of states with legal cannabis up to 18.

And now it looks like at least four more states are going to be deliberating over legalization this year. Connecticut, Delaware, Minnesota and Rhode Island have all introduced bills in their states’ Legislatures to legalize.