Rule change doubles number of cannabis plants for growers

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

An emergency state-level rule change has doubled the number of cannabis plants licensed producers can grow at one time, but some in the industry fear the change is too little, too late to address demand for the start of recreational sales in April.

“Building the infrastructure to double the number of plants could take months to years for most operators, and the plants planted today will not be ready in April,” said Ben Lewinger, executive director of the New Mexico Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, in a Prepared Affirmation.

The emergency rule change, which took effect last week, increases the maximum number of mature cannabis plants licensed producers can grow at one time from 10,000 to 20,000.

In a submission filing to enact the emergency rule change, Cannabis Control Division Director Kristen Thomson wrote that the change is necessary to ensure that patients enrolled in New Mexico’s medical cannabis program won’t face shortages due to recreational market demand, while keeping the state on track to begin recreational sales on April 1.

“The supply of medical cannabis will be increasingly threatened without an adequate supply of plants,” Thomson wrote.

Duke Rodriguez, president and CEO of Ultra Health, the state’s largest cannabis producer, called the change “good news” but said it likely wouldn’t significantly change the amount of cannabis that will be available in April. He said it usually takes about 5.5 months to get a cannabis plant in the ground and ready for harvest, so the extra plants wouldn’t be ready for harvest by April.

“We probably won’t get relief in the remaining 74 days until April 1,” Rodriguez said.

Ultra Health has been aggressive in the past by seeking more herbs, filing multiple legal challenges against state agencies, and seeking emergency rule changes in the past to increase the number of herbs available for license holders. Rodriguez told the Journal he would like to see the state abolish factory counts altogether and adopt a market-based approach.

“When you do that, you leave it up to the independent contractor to determine the level of financial risk they want to take,” Rodriguez said.

On the other hand, Lewinger said the increase in the number of factories is now undermining the work of industry advocates and lawmakers last year to prevent the industry from being dominated by a small handful of producers. in large scale.

“Increasing the number of plants now will only help the largest, most resource-rich growers – it won’t help medical cannabis patients and it won’t help new companies trying to break into the industry. industry,” Lewinger said.

The discovery record says the new rule is due to expire on July 12.

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