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Amid packed legislative session, governor pushes for cannabis law changes

A marijuana plant is displayed during the 2016 Cannabis Business Summit & Expo on Jun. 22 in Oakland, Calif.
A marijuana plant is displayed during the 2016 Cannabis Business Summit & Expo on Jun. 22 in Oakland, Calif.

Amid a packed legislative session with a record surplus of state revenue and plans to tackle climate change and improve education and public safety, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has officially called on the state legislature to make some changes to current cannabis laws. KUNM's Morning Edition host Bryce Dix talked with New Mexico Political Report's Andy Lyman to add some context on how lawmakers might alter the Cannabis Regulation Act.

KUNM: Hey Andy.

ANDY LYMAN: Hi Bryce.

KUNM: So, the Governor made this announcement Thursday, right? But, why change the law so quickly after it was passed last June?

LYMAN: Well, there's one major thing in there––increased plant counts. There's a few other changes that I think the issue has been brought up by numerous, different people. And I think some of these things are arguably just some sort of cleanups.

KUNM: And so this announcement coincides with a bill sponsored by Senator Linda Lopez of Albuquerque –– Senate Bill 100 –– and that aims to increase plant limits, as you mentioned, for cannabis micro businesses. What's the impact of this on the public? Does that have anything to do with recreational sales starting up in April?

LYMAN: Yeah, I think it's pretty directly related. Last week, the Cannabis Control Division announced that they were going to increase production limits for regular producers. The issue with the Cannabis Regulation Act is that the production limits for these microbusinesses are built into statute. So, there's really no way to change that and make it equitable for those micro producers. So that, and the Cannabis Control Division pretty much said explicitly that this is a way to make sure that we don't run short on medical cannabis for patients when sales start.

KUNM: What are some of the other changes to the law that have been proposed?

LYMAN: One of the big ones, and this was sort of a push from a lot of folks in the industry, is to allow certain producers to have employees that are 18 years or older. But you know, obviously, under 21. The Cannabis Regulation Act says you have to be 21 to work in a cannabis shop or grow area, cannabis business. But there's a bunch of medical cannabis producers for years who have been employing folks who are 18 years or older. So that's one of the changes.

There's some education issues where they allow the Cannabis Control Division to require some education standards for cannabis servers, I believe. There's something in there that would allow those micro producers to wholesale and there's some various sorts of minor changes and background check issues and some guidance to work with law enforcement to do those background checks.

KUNM: And of course, this legislative session is super packed with other items on the agenda. When might we start seeing some debate on this? And do we think it could be done in such a short amount of time?

LYMAN: Well, just the process was a message has been issued, but it still needs to be read into the record. And the Senate is not scheduled to meet again until Monday –– I believe Monday around noon or Monday afternoon. So, that would be the first thing that needs to happen. They need to read it into the record. And then that makes the bill that was obviously Senate Bill 100 and makes it germane, then it could start the committee process.

Going from there, It's just really up to leadership on how quickly they get it scheduled. And as far as whether they can do it, a lot of things are possible in a 30-day session. They can rush things through that are a priority has yet to be seen though, because there's obviously a list of other priorities from the governor's office.

KUNM: Okay, New Mexico Political Report's Andy Lyman. Thanks for filling us in today.

LYMAN: Thanks Bryce.