NM medical hashish producers warn of hashish scarcity ‘disaster’

As New Mexico prepares for its new recreational cannabis industry, two cannabis producers are warning of an impending crisis if state regulators fail to lift a moratorium on expanding existing medicinal cannabis production.

After the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department and its Cannabis Control Division announced they were suspending approving new facilities until further regulations were finalized, two old manufacturers who seldom see regulations on an equal footing said both concerned about adult supplies. Use to start selling next year.

Earlier this year, Nicole Bazzano, the deputy general manager of the Cannabis Control Division, sent a letter to medical cannabis manufacturers informing them that new manufacturing facilities would have to wait until after September.

“The [Cannabis Regulation Act] prohibits the [Cannabis Control Division] June 2021 not to accept new requests for additional space until the relevant rules are established, ”wrote Bazzano. “As such, the [Cannabis Control Division] will not process requests for additional premises submitted on June 29, 2021 or later until the rules for the appropriate license types are established. “

Duke Rodriguez, president and CEO of well-known cannabis company Ultra Health, said a hiatus in expanding its manufacturing facilities will only worsen the bottlenecks he has warned about for years.

“We’re going to have a crisis,” said Rodriguez. “Mathematically we cannot avoid it.”

Rodriguez has long said that New Mexico, especially in rural areas, was already suffering from supply shortages due to rules and regulations limiting the number of crops for growers.

Rodriguez said the data his company has compiled shows that New Mexico could completely run out of cannabis just days after recreational use sales began. He said allowing medical cannabis manufacturers to expand operations to bolster supply was only part of the solution and that it may be too late to avoid a crisis entirely. That’s partly because the New Mexico Department of Health’s medical cannabis program has limited production to 450 plants per producer for years. It was only relatively recently that the department increased the system limits to 1,750 by court order.

“We dug such a deep hole it will take time to climb out,” said Rodriguez.

A spokesman for RLD and the Cannabis Control Division said license changes have also been made since the application process was opened.

“The Cannabis Control Division is currently processing amendments for producers. The manufacturer’s instructions are complete, license applications are accepted and changes are being processed, ”said RLD spokeswoman Heather Brewer. “The mission of the Cannabis Control Division is to ensure a thriving cannabis industry in New Mexico, serving medical cannabis patients, adult consumers, and the manufacturing companies that are the backbone of the industry.”

However, Rodriguez said it takes at least five months to go from a cannabis seed in the ground to products on store shelves, and it might be too late to make sure there is no shortage of cannabis for qualified patients.

“We’re running out. The DOH has led us to a historic flaw, ”said Rodriguez. “Unfortunately the clock has struck midnight, so that we now have a painful prospect of supply for more than a year. Math is hard to deny. “

Willie Ford, who heads medical cannabis consulting and management firm Reynold Greenleaf and Associates, is often the disagreement with Rodriguez’s call for production to increase. But following the letter from RLD, Ford said he was also concerned about a shortage of cannabis for patients after recreational sales begin next year.

“You know me, I’m a regulator, and I say it’s ridiculous,” said Ford. “If you really want to hope to achieve that goal, you have to allow people to move faster than they do now.”

Recently passed cultivation rules require producers to reserve at least 25 percent of their supply for medicinal cannabis patients. In almost all legal cannabis markets across the country, cannabis retailers ran out of supplies on the first day of legal sales. The required reserves are one way to address this, but Ford is not confident that New Mexico retailers will comply with this rule or that regulators will be able to adequately enforce it.

“I don’t see how you can even keep track of this,” said Ford. “You talk about millions and millions of grams of material sold. And they are using outdated, non-working software for their government traceability system. “

The tracking software Ford is referring to is BioTrack, a seed-to-sale tracking system that DOH used for its Medical Cannabis program.

But as the 2017 NM Political Report noted, DOH was either unable or unwilling to track sales between producers, which led to further questions about how much cannabis is available at any given time.

Ford, like Rodriguez, said it takes at least five months to grow cannabis, dry it, and then package it properly for consumers.

“We can’t go as fast as the administration expected us to be,” said Ford. “We need to be able to set up and approve this facility, turn on the lights, plant plants, and run a growth cycle. This is a five month affair. And then you pull the material out, dry it, cure it, package it, process it and put it on the market. It just won’t happen. “

The NM Political Report asked both Ford and Rodriguez if manufacturers could simply devote all of their offerings to medicinal cannabis patients.

Ford said he plans to use at least the same amount of cannabis that his company normally sells to patients, even after adult sales begin.

“I’m torn. I am absolutely torn,” said Ford. “I don’t want to destroy this system and I don’t want to be on the wrong side of history. But I have a responsibility to my company and my investors and my employees But I think when it does open up we will try to keep the exact amount that we give out to patients, around 30,000 grams per week. “

Rodriguez provided the NM Political Report data compiled by his company showing that when Colorado launched its adult cannabis program, medical device sales exceeded or matched recreational sales for the first year. Rodriguez said he expected all cannabis sales, including medicinal use, to strain the system on day one.

“[Colorado] went from about 115,000 [medical cannabis cardholders] to currently about 85,000 cardholders, ”said Rodriguez. “But these 85,000 cardholders used just as much as the 115,000.”

To make the supply problem worse, a state district judge recently ruled that medical cannabis patients should be allowed to purchase up to two ounces of cannabis at a time with no transaction limits. The previous limit for patients was about 8 ounces of cannabis over a rolling 90-day period. Both RLD and DOH have until September 20 to argue in writing why patients should be given the same purchase amounts as non-patients. Unless the ruling is overturned, the state could see an increase in cannabis purchases.

The newly finalized RLD cultivation rules allow growers to grow up to 8,000 flowering plants, with an option to increase to 10,000 in certain cases.

Brewer said RLD had “data-driven research” determined that the current plant line should be appropriate for the New Mexico market, but not set in stone.

“The Cannabis Control Division will continuously evaluate plant numbers and production to ensure adequate care and may change the limits based on market conditions or patient needs,” said Brewer. “The mission of the Cannabis Control Division is to make sure the industry thrives. Every action that the CCD takes as part of our open and transparent rulemaking process is specifically designed to support companies, patients, consumers and the industry as a whole. “

But Ford said it wasn’t optimistic that the industry will flourish from the start.

“I just want to make sure people remember that the governor, the administration and the RLD all said they will do whatever they can to make sure we don’t run out of medicine on April 1st. And if that means she has to push back rec[reational-use] Sales because we’re not ready, it’s up to them, it’s not up to us, “said Ford.” We’re trying to make this happen. “

But the only way to postpone the start date for recreational use is a law of the state legislature. The Cannabis Regulation Act requires RLD and the Cannabis Control Division to begin adult sales no later than April 1, 2021.