Last week the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department’s (RLD) Cannabis Control Division (CCD) announced that it had finalized its rules governing cannabis manufacturers, retailers and couriers, marking a monumental landmark in the march toward an open adult-use marijuana market.
“Every day brings us closer to the first adult-use cannabis sales in New Mexico,” said CCD Director Kristen Thomson in a statement. “Thanks to the Cannabis Control Division’s open and transparent rule-making process over the past six months, businesses and consumers can be confident that all necessary support and protection is in place to ensure a thriving cannabis industry in our state.”
Rules for producers were finalized last August. By law the RLD was required to finalize rules for the rest of the industry by Jan. 1. The new rules, which went into effect Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021, address safety concerns for cannabis production workers and replace emergency manufacturing rules that were adopted in September. Other rules enacted earlier in December covered manufacturing of edible and topical cannabis products.
According to the CCD, the agency has received over 300 applications from potential cannabis businesses through its online licensing system. The CCD has said it will not limit the number of applications it accepts. According to representatives, CCD staffers are working day and night to make certain that the cannabis industry gets up and running with the least amount of problems. The division approved its first three producer licenses in December. It’s unclear how many more companies have been approved.
“Our dedicated team of professionals is working hard through the holidays and on every day to work with applicants to get licenses issued and businesses up and running,” Thomson said. “Standing up a thriving new industry is no small feat, and I know that our team, our system and New Mexico’s prospective licensees are up to the challenge. New Mexico will be ready for adult-use sales in 2022.”
It’s an exciting time for New Mexicans. So far the CCD has managed to meet all of the state’s deadlines implementing cannabis regulations, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Representatives for the division repeatedly have assured producers and reporters that the state will be ready to open the doors on the adult-use cannabis market as planned and on time. The deadline to begin adult-use cannabis sales is April 1.
Beyond finalizing the emergency safety rules, cannabis manufacturer requirements were also established. The new regulations break up manufacturers into four classes: Class I is for companies that package or repackage previously manufactured cannabis products; Class II is for companies that make edibles or other products using previously manufactured cannabis products; Class III is for those manufacturing marijuana extracts through mechanical methods or using nonvolatile solvents; and Class IV is for manufacturers that use volatile solvents for extraction.
The rules limit the methods of extraction that can be used and prohibit certain additives like polypropylene glycol (an industrial manufacturing product) and vitamin E acetate (a topical additive linked to a spate of lung injuries in 2019 and 2020). Adding caffeine, nicotine or any other “addictive substance” is also prohibited—although this ban does not apply to products containing naturally-occurring caffeine or sugar like coffee, tea or chocolate.
Manufacturers are also required to set up state-approved training programs for employees.
Regulators also set rules for how cannabis can be transported by courier. The rules allow for direct-to-consumer delivery of shelf-stable marijuana products.
The rules bar cannabis deliveries by anyone other than a licensed courier. Couriers are required to immediately lock any product they are transporting in a “secure area” until it is delivered or returned to its sender. Couriers also will be required to verify the identity of the package recipient and will be barred from delivering it to anyone else. Retailers are still required to pre-verify consumer identities before utilizing couriers for delivery, however.
The rules ban the use of any advertising or display on vehicles that would indicate that a courier is transporting cannabis. Couriers are not allowed to hold a delivery for longer than 24 hours.
The most exciting part of the rules for consumers are probably those related to retailers.
As with manufacturers, retailers will be expected to provide state-approved training to all employees regarding safety procedures and proper handling of products and records. This will ensure that all dispensary workers are practicing proper health and safety protocols enacted by the state. All workers who handle edible products will be required to complete an American National Standards Institute food-handler course. Retail workers will also be taught to verify consumer ages and identities in accordance with the state’s Cannabis Regulation Act. Employee training must be completed within 30 days of a new hire.
The state requires that retailers develop, implement and maintain policies regarding proper bookkeeping and chain-of-custody protocols. They will also be expected to develop procedures for testing batches of product and remedial measures to bring noncompliant products back into compliance. Retailers will also be expected to maintain policies around response to emergency situations and the prevention of crime and workplace injury.
Rules regarding displays at dispensaries were also included. Retailers will only be allowed to display products inside an establishment. The display must be removed from its individual packaging and placed in a container meant only for customer inspection. These containers cannot be easily accessible to customers, and an employee must be present whenever a consumer is handling a display container. Display products have to be destroyed when they are no longer in use and cannot be consumed. Retailers are also barred from selling or gifting cannabis products that have been returned by the customer. These must also be destroyed.