New Mexico Residents Express Concerns About Cannabis Production Rules

People interested in the future New Mexico commercial market for recreational cannabis on Tuesday expressed concerns that the proposed rules are so financially burdensome on producers that they could exclude native New Mexicoers with limited resources.

They also raised concerns about access to water rights in a drought-stricken state.

Some said that not only will established medical cannabis companies have a head start on newcomers to the industry, but also established companies outside of the state.

“This bill was created by New Mexicans for New Mexicans,” said Christopher Collins during a nearly one-day virtual public hearing Tuesday.

“We can’t forget the little guy,” he said. “The big corporations will join. You will dominate. “

Tuesday marked the first day adults over 21 could legally own, use, and grow cannabis for personal use under a new state law in New Mexico.

It was also the deadline for people to weigh the rules proposed by the state’s Regulatory and Licensing Department for entrepreneurs who want to produce recreational cannabis for the commercial market. The department has announced that it will publish the final version of the producer rules by September 1st. Draft rules for the manufacture, testing and sale of cannabis products have yet to be published.

Dozens of people spoke during Tuesday’s public hearing.

Several, who said they are trying to get into the business as micro-farmers, complained about the requirements to provide a facility for cultivation, safety measures and water rights even before an application is made.

“Nobody is going to invest hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in a manufacturing facility to get a license,” said Kevin Lutz.

Potential micro business owners also spoke of the difficulty of finding affordable rental space to start operations, as landlords do not want to rent to cannabis companies.

Some asked if the state could add a provision to the new Cannabis Regulation Act banning out of state companies from doing business in New Mexico for at least a year while smaller businesses are starting.

Duke Rodriguez, president and CEO of Ultra Health, New Mexico’s largest medical cannabis company, warned of a potential shortage of cannabis supplies if recreational users can legally purchase products. Ultra Health released a report Monday that said the state’s plant limits would create a massive deficit for growers.

Legal sales are scheduled to start in early 2022.

The rules for cannabis producers include a provision that mandates water rights and adequate water supplies.

Several speakers said Tuesday they fear the new industry will affect farmers and others who are already competing for limited water supplies in an increasingly arid state.

Paula Garcia, executive director of the New Mexico Acequia Association, said irrigation ditches are prone to a new agribusiness.

“It is vital that rules are put in place to prevent the illegal use of water and hold licensees accountable for the water they use,” she said.

She asked the regulatory and licensing department “to take this into account in advance in the application process”.

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