Joshua Lee is a news and science reporter. He has been one of the leading cannabis reporters in New Mexico for the last five years, and his work has appeared in Weekly Alibi, Right Where You Are Sitting Now and the Disinformation Company.

Cannabis Control Division Continues Push

Last week the Cannabis Control Division (CCD) of the New Mexico Regulations and Licensing Department published proposed rules for the manufacture, couriering and retail sale of adult-use cannabis on its website. The division is now seeking comments from the public on the proposed rules.

Last month the CCD issued emergency rule changes regarding the manufacture of cannabis products using substances that could be toxic for humans. The emergency changes were made to address the safety of marijuana industry workers following a number of incidents involving medical cannabis worker injuries. The proposed draft rules would update those changes and make them permanent.

“The mission of the Cannabis Control Division is to support a strong, thriving and safe adult-use and the medical cannabis industry in New Mexico,” RLD Superintendent Linda M. Trujillo said in a statement. “With these latest rules, drafted in consultation with the Cannabis Regulatory Advisory Committee, we are continuing our important work to help businesses, entrepreneurs and communities maximize the economic opportunities presented by this new industry.”

The proposed rules would regulate the manufacture, sale and transportation of cannabis. The CCD is asking New Mexicans to comment on the proposed rules either online, by mail or at a public hearing scheduled for Oct. 28.

Rules for cannabis producers were set in August. According to CCD representative Heather Brewer, 1,570 producer applications have been started and 56 completed applications have been submitted to the division. None of the applications have been approved at the time of this writing.

State law requires the CCD to begin processing all cannabis license types by Jan. 1 of next year.

Silver City Pot User Skewers Smoking Bans

A Grant County resident raised some serious concerns over proposed cannabis smoking regulations for Silver City that are supported by state law.

According to Silver City Daily Press, Mimbres resident Linda Pafford recently told Silver City councilors that restrictions on smoking marijuana in public unfairly singled out a specific class of cannabis users. “There are no such restrictions on tobacco smoke, or even hemp or CBD use,” said Pafford. The rules also do not apply to edible cannabis products.

The proposed rules would level a $50 civil penalty to anyone caught smoking marijuana in a public place other than officially approved cannabis consumption areas. The proposed rule appears to mirror the state’s Cannabis Regulation Act. The law does not allow users to smoke in public places, and specifically calls for a $50 civil penalty for violators. According to Silver City leaders, the proposed regulation is perfectly in line with the state law.

However, Pafford argued that the law “re-criminalizes smoking pot” and pointed out that there is little evidence that secondhand cannabis smoke is excessively harmful. “Cannabis smoke does not pose any greater threat,” she reportedly said. “There are many more dangerous toxins to which we are exposed on our city streets.”

Town Attorney Jim Reynolds told reporters he would review the law. “I heard and understood what she expressed,” he said. “I will review the matter with Councilor Cano—but the ordinance cannot contradict state law.”

While Pafford’s critique may have value, the state’s Cannabis Regulation Act clearly states that no one is allowed to smoke in a public place, “except in a cannabis consumption area.” It goes on to say that anyone who violates the law will be subject to a civil penalty of $50.

Santa Fe Approves Pot Zoning Rules

Potential pot entrepreneurs in Santa Fe are breathing a sigh of relief. The Santa Fe City Council has finally adopted a set of zoning rules for cannabis businesses after receiving criticism for appearing to drag its feet. Last week the council voted unanimously to adopt regulations that will determine where cannabis companies can operate in the city.

On top of the state’s regulations that limit marijuana companies from operating within 300 feet of schools and daycare, Santa Fe will also ban pot producers and retailers from setting up shop within 300 feet of churches and other places of worship and 400 feet of other cannabis businesses. The new zoning laws will also restrict the use of volatile solvents to industrial districts.

Southwest Capital Teams Up With NatureTrak

It’s tough for cannabis companies to find banking options thanks to federal regulations and the overall riskiness of the pot business. In New Mexico marijuana companies are lucky to be able to work with Southwest Capital Bank, which has repeatedly shown a willingness to work with the industry. Now Southwest Capital is working with a new platform that promises to improve cannabis banking operations.

The bank recently announced it would be partnering with NatureTrak, a cannabis compliance and risk-management platform that offers a complete solution for electronic cannabis transactions that are in compliance with regulations.

“Integrating NatureTrak into our current process provides the peace of mind needed to continue running our cannabis banking program for the people and businesses within our community,” President at Southwest Capital Bank Lonnie Talbert said in a press release. “With the recent legalization of adult-use cannabis in New Mexico, we are faced with a considerable opportunity to grow our business; however, it also opens us up to significant risk. With NatureTrak, we are able to mitigate this risk with real-time transparency and validation of all of our cannabis-related transactions.”

Federal Legalization Bill Clears Key Committee

The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act was approved by the House Judiciary Committee last week on a 26 to 15 vote that fell along party lines. Democratic support for the bill was unanimous, while all but two Republicans voted against it.

The MORE Act would deschedule cannabis, expunge marijuana convictions, give states control over local marijuana policies and remove collateral consequences of using the drug. The current version of the bill has 76 cosponsors. It has been referred to eight other House panels.

The bill’s ultimate fate is unclear, but signs are that it will have a rough time in the Senate—if it even gets that far. Democrats have only a slim lead there, and party support for the bill isn’t assured.