SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The cannabis industry has seen a lot of green in the last year. Retail recreational sales have passed a quarter of a billion dollars in New Mexico, and now the state’s regulatory agency said they’re expanding rule enforcement.
“There’s over 2,500 individuals that have a controlling share in a cannabis business,” Linda M. Trujillo, the superintendent of the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department, told KRQE News 13. Currently, Trujillo is also overseeing the Cannabis Control Division (CCD) after the departure of the most recent acting director.
“Now, we know that the next step,” Trujillo said, “is compliance, and we’ve been building the compliance aspect over the course of the last year.”
Trujillo says they’re putting together a unit dedicated to compliance with cannabis rules. The idea has been spurred on by concerns from New Mexico’s legislators.
According to Trujillo, those concerns include “the possibility of licensees selling product that has come from other states, which is illegal, just flat out illegal, and the concern about licensees selling product that is enticing to children.” So, those two aspects will be the main focus in the coming months.
Trujillo explained compliance enforcement won’t include a law enforcement arm for the Cannabis Control Division – though that was an idea being kicked around by New Mexico’s politicians.
Instead, compliance will look more like a handful of Regulation and Licensing employees (Trujillo said there are eight compliance employees now, and they’re looking for a few more) who visit New Mexico’s cannabis shops and ensure that retailers are following the rules. While retail compliance will be the main focus, they’ll also be looking at manufacturers and producers to ensure they’re following the rules.
“We’ve got one compliance officer located in the Las Cruces area and anticipate adding at least one more, if not two more,” Trujillo said. “We’ve got a couple of positions that we’re assigning to the Albuquerque office, and then there’ll be officers assigned here in Santa Fe.”
Trujillo added that the idea of giving some compliance officers law enforcement power isn’t entirely off the table, but it’s something that will take more discussion in another legislative session in order to become a reality.
So, the CCD is entering enforcement mode. However, does that mean the state’s cannabis industry is full of rule breakers?
Trujillo says she thinks most in the industry are following the rules. There have been allegations of issues, such as complaints that a retailer was selling improperly labeled pre-rolls (the CCD followed up and brought the retailer into compliance), but Trujillo expects that most are in compliance. She also stated that the goal isn’t to close down shops that are breaking relatively minor rules.
“Our focus has not been to close people down,” Trujillo said. “Our focus has been to try to bring licensees into compliance. This is a new industry [with] new regulations and rules and statutes that have to be followed. So, we’ve tried to be thoughtful in helping businesses get onto the right track to be doing the right things.”
The CCD is getting serious about a key rule: No selling out-of-state products.
“Selling out-of-state product is illegal,” Trujillo explained. “It’s a violation of state law, and it’s criminal in nature.”
“I am not convinced that, you know, many of our licensees are doing that, but there certainly was a lot of concern in the legislature,” she said.