Tuesday, June 29 is the happy day New Mexico residents 21 and over can legally possess, use and grow Cannabis.
Patients in the state’s medical marijuana program are also excited about the new law, reports the Santa Fe New Mexican. Under the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program, they have been limited to growing four mature plants. When the adult-use law takes effect Tuesday, it will allow each adult to grow six plants. The limit is 12 in a household with more than one adult.
Gap Between Legalization and Legal Cannabis Industry
Legalization of adult use of marijuana comes months ahead of a legal industry in the state for adult-use Cannabis.
It also, illogically, will remain illegal to purchase products in neighboring legal states Colorado and Arizona. So residents excited about legalization won’t be able to legally weed back to New Mexico across the border.
The gap between legal use and legal sales is an unresolved issue in the state’s still-developing adult-use marijuana industry. Many legalization advocates say people who are eager for legal weed will turn to unlicensed sources in the meantime.
‘People Are Currently Obtaining and Using Illegal Cannabis’
“We know that people are currently obtaining and using illegal Cannabis, and that will continue for 10 months,” said Emily Kaltenbach. Kaltenbach, a state director of the national Drug Policy Alliance, said the DPA helped draft the recreational cannabis legislation.
Linda Trujillo is superintendent of the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department, which will oversee the new cannabis industry. But Trujillo said she don’t necessarily expect to see an uptick in the illegal market.
Medical marijuana patient David Gonzales recommends marijuana seekers who aren’t growing their own should just be patient. He said they should simply wait until licensed stores open. Gonzales said the black market is a “scary” place for him.
He added there is no way to know where a product came from or what’s in it. “As far as health and legal issues, it’s enough for me to stay out of the black market.”
New Mexico Has Challenges To Overcome
On Tuesday, as legalization takes effect, the Regulation and Licensing Department’s Cannabis Control Division will hold a virtual forum. The division will gather input on the first proposed state guidelines for those who want to get into the industry.
There are several challenges to overcome before applying for a license later this year. These include raising capital, navigating required water rights, finding a facility and developing security provisions.
The state has not yet released a set of proposed rules for retailers. However, it expects to start issuing licenses to sell cannabis next year — no later than April 1.
One nagging question is how the new law will help create equity. Lawmakers who backed legalization said their intention was that the law would include equity provisions. These provisions would help the people of color who were unfairly targeted under prohibition.
“It definitely feels like we’re building the ship as we sail,” said Henry Jake Foreman, program director at Albuquerque nonprofit New Mexico Community Capital. The group works to help Native American entrepreneurs in the state.
Foreman is raising money and developing support to help Native farmers get started. He said his biggest concern is “we are going to see a lot of out-of-state people come into this space.”
‘Sleepless Nights’ in New Mexico
That issue, Trujillo said, gives her “sleepless nights.”
Many worry that small New Mexico entrepreneurs will struggle to put together enough cash to enter the cannabis business. Meanwhile, larger, well-financed operations from out of state could take root.
Newcomers to the business will face stiff competition from established medical cannabis companies planning to expand into recreational sales. These large operations are likely to dominate the field, at least in the beginning, according to the New Mexican.
Trujillo worries prospective marijuana operators will “cash out their retirement or family savings, or put their home up to get money, and they’re not going to have thought it through.”
Her department will push legislators to create a social equity fund. She said fund would help ordinary New Mexicans break into the business.
State Rep. Javier Martínez (D-Albuquerque), one of the biggest proponents of the new law, initially proposed including an equity fund. But he dropped it as part of a compromise to keep the bill moving forward in the Legislature.
Martínez said he would introduce an amendment to the bill in next year’s session to include the equity funding provision. “We absolutely need to have a fund to support small entrepreneurs in New Mexico,” he said.