TAOS, N.M. (KRQE) – Tens of millions of dollars have passed through licensed cannabis retailers in New Mexico. By the numbers, the industry is booming. But industry experts are telling lawmakers there are too many retailers and not enough regulation.
In an Economic & Rural Development & Policy Committee meeting, Tony Martinez, the CEO of Lava Leaf Organics, told lawmakers that because cannabis businesses haven’t seen much enforcement until recently, there’s a feeling that they can get away with breaking the rules.
“I can see CCD [the Cannabis Control Division] is taking action. Things are happening, but we’ve been in this realm for two years now, and until two months ago, no licenses had been taken,” Martinez said.
The state does have some power to regulate the industry. The director of the Cannabis Control Division told lawmakers the division has inspected hundreds of locations.
“Currently, for the year, we’ve completed 572 inspections – 409 at retail, 129 producers, and about 34 manufacturing [inspections],” CCD Director Todd Stevens told lawmakers. “We found 2,700 violations in those 572 inspections.”
Those violations ranged from relatively minor things, like not having a floor plan on file, to more serious violations, such as having mislabeled cannabis, Stevens said. “Some of these violations are mitigated and fixed within a matter of days.”
When things get more serious, the CCD can take action against a company, including asking a judge to shut the business down. That happened for the first time just two months ago.
CCD has revoked a total of three licenses, according to Stevens. “We are out doing as much as we can and enforcing as much as we can,” he said.
But the numbers are against the division. There are more than 1,000 cannabis retail licenses in New Mexico, and more than half were reporting sales in September. That’s a massive number of businesses at which the division is tasked with inspecting, enforcing, and ensuring compliance.
“We need to enhance the ability for CCD to sufficiently regulate the industry,” Ben Lewinger, the executive director of the New Mexico Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, told lawmakers. “Right now, the Cannabis Control Division in New Mexico does not have parity with other regulators in other states.”
Part of the reason, Lewinger explained, is a lack of funding. Regulation issues are also a natural consequence of getting a new industry up and running in such a short time frame, Lewinger said.
Now the question is: Will lawmakers have an opportunity to address regulation issues in next year’s 30-day lawmaking session? During a 30-day session, lawmakers can only consider appropriation bills, revenue bills, previously vetoed bills, or bills requested by the governor. So, it will be up to the governor to decide if new cannabis legislation is on the table.