ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Police and regulators want more power over the state’s newer cannabis industry; they told state lawmakers Friday that while plenty of people are following the rules, the people who aren’t are hard to hold accountable.
New Mexico’s cannabis market is generating millions in taxes and private revenue. “We had our highest month I believe it was in August where we recorded over $44 million dollars in sales,” said Linda Trujillo, superintendent of New Mexico’s Regulation and Licensing Department (RLD).
However, state officials worry regulatory gaps in the law that legalized the plant are continuing to cause problems. “There’s a lot less enforcement being done on the criminal side. In large part because there’s a lot less statutory authority to do things on the criminal side,” said Chief W. Troy Weisler of the New Mexico State Police.
At a legislative meeting Friday, state administrators asked lawmakers to clarify the Cannabis Regulation Act when it comes to who is allowed to seize and destroy illegal cannabis, and how.
“When we find a facility that has over 30,000 plants and we don’t have number one the authority to confiscate them, even if we did have the authority to confiscate them what would we do with it? Right? So there’s a lot of stuff we can talk about in regards to that,” Trujillo said.
State police say they’re continuing to find large amounts of cannabis traveling into or through the state on the highways—around 10,000 pounds since the beginning of 2022—but Chief Weisler says larger seizures of cannabis show a discrepancy in the law:
“For now, if I have my bag here and I have 8.1 ounces of marijuana in my bag, that’s the same penalty as if I have 4,000 pounds of marijuana in my tractor-trailer.”
As it stands, both would be a fourth-degree felony.
“Before the cannabis regulation act was enacted distribution of marijuana was a more serious crime than possession of marijuana. Under the cannabis regulation act, it’s the reverse. Possession of more than 8 ounces is a fourth-degree felony, distribution in any quantity is a misdemeanor,” said James Grayson, chief deputy attorney general for the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General.
Criminal justice leaders said trafficking or distribution of cannabis should also be a felony; and asked that giving it to minors should be a specified crime. “I think we have even have less of a penalty for trafficking cannabis to juveniles that we do for providing alcohol to juveniles so I think we’re out of step on that,” Weisler said.
The RLD is also asking lawmakers to reconsider the process around immediate injunctions against businesses accused of breaking the rules. Regulators say sometimes they’re having to wait for weeks for a district court judge to weigh in.