SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – As New Mexico has ramped up its cannabis industry, the state has approved more than 2,600 cannabis licenses. But now the regulators are noting some potential issues in the system they want lawmakers to address.
“We do need to have the biometric criminal . . . fingerprint background [checks],” Linda Trujillo, the superintendent of the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department, told lawmakers in a Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee meeting Wednesday. “We have tried for the last two sessions to get some legislation passed.”
The problem is that New Mexico is unable to do federal background checks before issuing cannabis licenses. “All we’re doing right now is state background checks,” Trujillo told lawmakers. “It doesn’t give us information from any other state.”
That could be a safety concern, as revealed in a Larry Barker investigation. There’s even the risk that cartel associates could operate within the state’s licensing structure without federal background checks.
Another issue to resolve: plant counts.
The problem is that the rules limiting cannabis producers to a certain number of plants could expire in a few years. “So, you’ve got to make a decision,” Trujillo said. “We need to have some ability to regulate the market.”
One technicality that lawmakers could fix: Allowing businesses with alcohol licenses to also have a cannabis license.
Currently, state law prohibits people from having both an alcohol license and a cannabis license. The idea was to make sure people couldn’t get in a dangerous situation by consuming both alcohol and cannabis at the same time.
“The goal was to not have them served at the same place, but the way the statute is written, you can’t have both licenses” even if they are at different locations, Trujillo says. “That’s just a technical fix that needs to be taken care of.”
Finally, regulators want New Mexico’s lawmakers to reconsider the rules around cannabis education.
The state was supposed to be able to issue licenses for places to train people to work in the cannabis industry. But because the statute classifies those as higher education operations, Trujillo says they’ve avoided them.
“It’s ‘higher education,’ and so that is a license type that we haven’t given,” Trujillo says. “We’re not going to license higher education.” If the law were re-worded slightly, Trujillo says the Regulation and Licensing Department would be happy to start issuing those licenses.