"New Mexico State Capitol, Santa Fe, New Mexico" by Ken Lund is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department will be holding a second rule hearing regarding recreational cannabis regulations.

The department’s Cannabis Control Division will hold the hearing virtually and in-person at the State Capitol on Aug. 6. Officials say the need for another round of public comment has arisen as substantive changes have been made to the original version of the rules. The division says the changes were based on public comments made during the first hearing.

One of the most noteworthy changes was an increase in the limits for plant production among licensed producers. Plant limits have been a sore spot for medical cannabis producers in the past, and many said the proposed recreational limits were too stifling. The CCD apparently heard those complaints and raised the cap from its original 4,500 plants to 8,000 plants—with an exception that will allow producers to request a limit increase of up to 10,000 plants.

The proposed rule would set limits in a tiered system consisting of four levels: Level 1 would be allowed to grow 201 to 1,000 mature plants; Level 2 would be limited to growing 1,001 to 3,000 plants; Level 3 would be allowed to grow 3,001 to 6,000 plants; and Level 4 would be able to grow 6,001 to 8,000 plants.

Under the proposed rule change, new licensees will be able to request for limit increases at the time of licensing and once per year thereafter. The CCD will make decisions based on whether the producer has met the required sales each month for the previous three months, whether it has sold at least 80 percent of its inventory each month in that time, whether the Medical Cannabis Program has been experiencing a shortage, whether the licensee’s cultivation plan meets licensure requirements and whether the licensee is involved in a pending or final enforcement action.

The division is again seeking public comments and will be accepting written comments through Aug. 6. Comments can be made via email at ccd.publiccomments@state.nm.us.

“The change is part of CCD’s ongoing effort to ensure an open, transparent process to maximize the opportunities that adult-use cannabis will create for New Mexico businesses, entrepreneurs and communities,” said CCD spokesperson Heather Brewer.

Federal Legalization Bill Finally Unveiled

A draft of a highly anticipated bill that would legalize cannabis at the federal level has finally been released, but some cannabis advocates say more needs to be done.

Last week Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) released a draft of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act. If made law the bill would deschedule marijuana at the federal level, expunge previous low-level pot convictions, allow cannabis prisoners to petition for resentencing, allow states to make their own marijuana laws and remove collateral consequences for those who have received cannabis convictions in the past. It would also impose a tax on cannabis sales that would funnel money into programs to help support cannabis entrepreneurs from communities that have been negatively impacted by the War on Some Drugs. The bill proposes handing regulatory powers over cannabis to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

Most cannabis advocates have shown support for the proposed bill, but the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) pointed out what it said were some flaws in a press release. “Work remains to ensure justice does not fall short,” wrote DPA Director of the Office of National Affairs Maritza Perez. “To our dismay, the Senate draft contains exclusionary language that ended up getting added to the House-passed MORE Act last year that would continue to subject federal employees to drug testing and deny certain individuals—who have already paid the highest price—the opportunity to expunge their records.”

Overall, the DPA said it supported the bill—especially its focus on social equity—but asked that the senators remove exclusionary language from the bill.

Last week legalization bill co-author Booker threatened to block a popular bill that would give cannabis companies access to banking services ahead of comprehensive marijuana reform, the SAFE Banking Act. Booker said the banking bill would allow people who are already involved in the cannabis industry to “get rich” while ignoring the need for restorative justice to address the harms of the drug war.

“I don’t know about other members of the Senate, but I will lay myself down to do everything I can to stop an easy banking bill that’s going to allow all these corporations to make a lot more money off of this, as opposed to focusing on the restorative justice aspect,” he said.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), lead sponsor of the SAFE Banking Act, took to Twitter to respond. “There is a serious public safety threat that exists in our communities which we cannot wait to address,” he wrote. “The SAFE Banking Act isn’t about making corporations richer—it’s about protecting employees, patients and customers of small businesses.”

When asked about President Joe Biden’s reaction to the proposed bill, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the president still opposes legalization. “Nothing has changed, and there’s no new endorsements of legislation to report today,” Psaki said at a press briefing only hours after the bill had been unveiled.

Border Towns Ready For Pot Dollars

Thanks to its proximity to the Texas border, Clovis city leaders told reporters that they expect to see a good amount of out-of-state revenue flowing into their cannabis market once dispensaries open their doors.

Clovis city attorney Jared Morris told News Channel 10 in Amarillo, Texas, that the city’s distance from the southern border will play a key role in providing tax money. “What we’ve been told by the New Mexico Municipal League is, ‘Don’t expect a huge windfall of gross receipts tax revenue unless you’re on a bordering city that borders Texas or Arizona.’ So with Clovis being eight miles from the border, I think we definitely expect some traffic from Texas. But it’s tough to say at this point, how much or what we should receive.”

Clovis, along with many other New Mexico cities, is currently discussing zoning regulations for cannabis companies.