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New state Regulation and Licensing Department division to oversee cannabis act


The New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department (NMRLD) likely will hire 50 additional employees to oversee the state’s new Cannabis Regulation Act (CRA), NMRLD Superintendent Linda M. Trujillo said in a telephone interview.

Trujillo said 13 employees have already moved from the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) to become part of NMRLD’s new Cannabis Control Division (CCD). That’s because CCD is taking over statutory authority for licensing all medical cannabis establishments in the state effective June 29.

CRA, with a total staff of 60 to 70, will oversee licensing of cannabis businesses, manage the state Cannabis Advisory Board and provide enforcement for the new law, Trujillo said.

The legislature passed CRA during a March 30-31 special session, and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed it into law April 12. New Mexico is the 17th state to legalize the so-called recreational use of cannabis for those age 21 and older, along with the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam.

“There is just so much we have to do to make this successful,” said Trujillo, who served 2017-20 in the New Mexico House, representing Santa Fe County. “We don’t want to crash and burn the way some states have done.”

Trujillo said CCD will blend what NMDOH has done to successfully administer the state’s medical marijuana program since it was created by the legislature in 2007, with what her staff has learned from other states that already have legalized recreational cannabis.

The agency will also focus on public education and information, Trujillo said.

“What are the key things folks need to know?” she asked, if they are interested in growing cannabis for their personal use or as a commercial enterprise. “Getting yourself educated on what the process is for doing that” is the first step they should take, Trujillo said.

For people interested in starting a cannabis business in Las Cruces, getting a city business license is job one. Visit www.las-cruces.org/2221/Register-or-Renew-a-Business.

The city Economic Development Department (EDD) “is currently working to seek best practices for better understanding what other cities have done in the transition of cannabis legislation,” EDD Deputy Director Francisco Pallares, Ph.D., said.

“This includes strategies implemented, lessons learned and evaluating the best approach on the development of the cannabis industry from the local economic development perspective,” he said.

EDD will put together information about the new industry “as we craft a strategy for it,” Pallares said.

Contact city Business Concierge Donald Bustos at dbustos@las-cruces.org for more information.

At Doña Ana County, a person would need to obtain a business registration/license, Community and Constituent Services Manager Elizabeth Reed said. Visit www.donaanacounty.org/clerk/business.

“Any business related to cannabis will be permitted in the zoning district which permits the specific use, i.e., retail, agricultural, manufacturing, etc.,” Reed said.

Trujillo said the NMRLD website (www.rld.state.nm.us) has a resource guide about adult-use cannabis. Other state and local resources are also available to assist startups, she said, including local business development centers. But, help from the federal government, including grants and loans, is unlikely, Trujillo said, because cannabis has been listed as a federally controlled and prohibited substance since 1970.

CCD is meeting with staff from the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, the state Environment Department, the state engineer and the state fire marshal’s office to gather their input in the drafting of CRA rules and procedures, Trujillo said. The rules will be available for public review and comment by the end of May, she said.

NMRLD had received nearly 80 applications for the 16-member Cannabis Advisory Board, Trujillo said. (Applications closed May 3.) By statute, the board must include attorneys, law enforcement officials, members with previous experience as cannabis producers, officials representing public health, Native Americans, small business development, water resources and others.

The committee also will advise CCD “on the development of rules covering a variety of policy subject matters,” NMRLD said in a news release.

CCD will begin accepting and processing license applications for cannabis producers by Sept. 1, the news release said. Commercial sales of cannabis will be authorized by April 1, 2022, Trujillo said.

Personal use of cannabis is “a whole separate thing” from commercial production, the superintendent said.

Under CDA, individuals age 21 and older will be allowed to grow up to six cannabis plants in their homes effective June 29, Trujillo said, with up to 12 plants allowed if there is more than one person age 21 and over at the residence.

Trujillo advised renters to check with their landlords before growing plants on rental property.

For health and safety reasons, CCD will track cannabis plants “from seed to sale,” Trujillo said.

NMRLD regulates more than 500,000 individuals and businesses in 35 industries, professions and trades across the state.

The New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department, Cannabis Regulation Act