A group of politicians and cannabis industry leaders officially made their recommendations to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham vis-à-vis recreational cannabis legalization in 2020. The report was published on the group's website last week.
We've been waiting on pins and needles to see what they'd spit out. While the report is made up of a list of “recommendations,” it's probably pretty close to what we'll end up seeing in an actual bill next year. The 2019 attempt at legislation was terrible, thanks to a last-minute compromise that would have introduced a state-run recreational market. Some people (your reporter) still believe that the inclusion of such a terrible plan was meant to kill the bill on the sly. But some people (also your reporter) smoke entirely too much reefer and tend to look for conspiracy theories where there are none. The group made certain to recommend that pot shops be run by private businesses back in September.
According to the release, the group's four main priorities while writing the report were public safety, maintaining a robust medical cannabis program, product safety and ensuring equity. The group says it reviewed 101 pages of public policy research, answered 279 policy questions, held 30 hours of public meetings and took in more than 200 pages of public written comment before writing the 16-page report. The group gives five recommendations to the governor:
1. Require clear labeling and “robust testing” for THC products.
2. Invest in law enforcement programs and bar communities from opting out to deter black markets.
3. Create social equity by ensuring that the low-income and communities of color have opportunities in the new market while using cannabis revenue to pump funds into communities that have been disproportionately damaged by marijuana prohibition.
4. Maintain a “robust” medical program by lowering costs for patients and medical producers while expanding access to products.
5. Give a certain amount of control to local governments by allowing counties and municipalities to enact their own zoning and licensing regulations.
The state's 30-day legislative session begins at noon on Jan. 21. Lujan Grisham has said she'll make legalization a priority this time around.
In a recent interview with Albuquerque City Councilor and group leader Pat Davis (which can be found in Weekly Alibi's Cannabis Manual—on stands this week!), it was revealed that if everything goes according to plan, we could see legalization implemented as early as 2021. So, we're getting there, albeit at a snail's pace.
A battle over hemp is being waged on the Navajo Nation.
Earlier this month, President Jonathan Nez warned entrepreneurs that hemp production is illegal on Navajo land after it was announced that the Native American Agricultural Company planned to open the Navajo Nation's first hemp products store. The company responded by opening Navajo Gold Health and Wellness Center's doors in Shiprock on Oct. 3. The Navajo Nation San Juan River Farm Board released this statement the next day:
“In 2000, the Navajo Tribe approved the production of hemp on the Navajo Nation. In 2018, the Navajo Nation San Juan River Farm Board … then developed the Regulations required to cultivate hemp on individual farms … President Trump signed into law the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 … As a result of the Native Farm Bill Coalition, the final package included 60 provisions specifically supporting Native American tribes, farmers, ranchers, and producers …”
The press release says that the Board, in its capacity as a governing unit, had already developed hemp regulations. Navajo Times reports that Nez disagrees. He claimed that the Board, led by NAAC's Dineh Benally, doesn't have the authority to implement regulations for the tribe. “The recent farm bill indicates that tribes do have the sovereign ability to regulate hemp production,” Nez told reporters. “The fact that we do not yet have rules in place does not mean that it is legal for anyone to grow it.”
The Navajo Agricultural Products Industry Board of Directors issued a statement supporting the president and agreeing that growing hemp on the Navajo Nation is illegal:
“The Council has not granted anyone with exclusive rights to grow or cultivate hemp on the Navajo Nation. New Mexico State University and NAPI are the only entities that are authorized to grow hemp on the Navajo Nation … Although the 2018 Farm Bill established a pathway for federal recognized Tribes to regulate the growth and cultivation of hemp … the Navajo Nation has not adopted regulations to permit the growth or cultivation of hemp.”
Nevertheless, the NAAC says it plans to expand production rather than halt it.
In the meantime, Nez says the Navajo Nation Council is working with NAPI to develop hemp regulations. It's still unclear if the store will remain open.
During a hearing before the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee, Centers for Disease Control Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat said that while the majority of vaping-related lung injuries plaguing the country have been linked to THC cartridges, they were all purchased from illicit sources—not legitimate cannabis businesses.
Schuchat was questioned by Rep. Andy Harris, of Maryland, during the hearing. Harris was openly hostile to the idea of federal legalization. He repeatedly attempted to conflate legally obtained THC cartridges with illicit ones and even asked Schuchat if adolescents who reported using THC products were using them for medical reasons.
“We don't have data,” she told him. “One thing I would say is there’s a lot of debate out there about whether legal status makes things better or worse in the states because some of our concerns right now are about the counterfeit and black market.”