John Blair

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The New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department has been moving right along with the adult-use cannabis producer licensing process. The applications are coming in by the droves, and the potential for New Mexico to host one of the most robust adult-use cannabis markets in the nation looks more promising by the day. We sat down with RLD Deputy Superintendent John Blair for an update on the state’s progress and the department’s predictions for the future. 

The Paper.: It’s been reported that more than 1,500 producer license applications are already in the process of being put together. Were you expecting this level of response?

John Blair: What I know is that there’s a clear excitement across the state about the economic opportunities for New Mexicans to get involved in the cannabis industry. I’m a little surprised, but I’m excited about it. It really shows how much New Mexicans are embracing the potential of what this industry can do, the jobs that it’s going to create, the good it’s going to do in communities. If anything, we’re just really excited to see the number of people involved. It’s really great.

And there aren’t any limits placed on the number of applications the CCD will accept or approve?

There’s nothing in the statute that allows us to limit the number of applications we can accept, so we don’t have authority to do anything like that.

It’s a complicated process to get this done. We make a real effort to be open and transparent—doing as much as we can to explain to those who are interested how the process is going to work and what they have to do. There’s a number of important documents people have to gather in order to submit a completed application. That includes proving that they have access to water and to water rights, that they have a business license, that they have the appropriate zoning indication from their local jurisdiction—their town or city or municipality or county. But our staff has been working the phones, taking calls, taking emails, doing all we can to ensure that business moves as swiftly as it can, so we can get New Mexicans going and they can get those plants in the ground and start growing.

Has there been a good response from microbusinesses?

I’ve seen a really significant number, which is great. We’re so proud of this opportunity in the legislation that allows for New Mexicans—rather than having to catch up your life savings and jump in with both feet, and hope for the best—this allows a lot of New Mexicans to step their foot into the industry, grow up to 200 plans at one time and really see if this is something that can help create that economic opportunity for them.

How smoothly is the application process going?

Well first of all, we’re really proud to have an all-online licensing system. And the purpose of this was really to ensure that we’re 21st century customer service to New Mexicans as we get them their license and as we ensure that they’re complying with the law. We’ve received positive feedback from those in the medical cannabis industry who’ve been working in the industry for a while—and from those who are here for the first time—that they have found our online license system to be really easy to use. We’ve tried to make it so that it’s not using legalese—it’s using language that you and I would use in everyday life that makes sense. 

We’re working on putting together checklists that are available on our website for people who are interested in getting these kinds of licenses, so they can have something in advance to look at and say, “Okay, here’s what I have to get. Here’s what I need to do.” And we’re doing all we can to provide the tools for success or any New Mexican that wants to get involved in cannabis. 

We had a great phone call today with our colleagues at the Taxation and Revenue Department about ways that we can work together in the future. We’ve been working hand in hand with the Department of Environment, Department of Agriculture, DPS [Department of Public Safety], you name it. And we’re doing all we can to ensure that this is as easy as can be for New Mexicans to get involved, and we feel like that’s happening.

The hot topic of the day is potential plant shortages when the adult-use industry starts up. Can you assure our readers that access to medical cannabis will not be interrupted?

Provisions were included in the law that passed that allow us to take steps to ensure that the medical cannabis is there. That includes requiring some new producers to only grow medical cannabis, and existing producers will also have to grow a certain amount of medical cannabis. I do believe that we will absolutely be in a place to ensure that every New Mexican who uses cannabis as a prescription drug to help solve their pain and their ills will have that cannabis there for them.

We’re in a place where we’ve renewed all the existing cannabis medical cannabis producers. They’re all growing right now. They are growing under the new limits that were created under the new legislation. They’re all now growing significantly more plants than they were a month ago. 

We’re doing all we can to ensure the integrity of the system and the peace of minds of medical cannabis patients that their medicine will be there and that we’ll have enough adult-use cannabis on the shelves to allow people to buy next year.

Some potential producers say that they’re concerned that there’s just not enough time to go through the application process and still have products on the shelves by April. Do you feel like the market is in any trouble of not opening on time?

No. We are full steam ahead, I gotta tell you. We set a deadline of September 1 to start processing producer licenses, and we beat that deadline. We’re on track to beat the deadline to start issuing manufacturing and retail licenses. I’m quite confident that our industry is going to be up and running and ready to go by the statutory deadline of no later than April 1 next year. 

To learn about upcoming rule hearings and other announcements, sign up for email notifications from the RLD at ccd.rld.state.nm.us.

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