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New Mexico Ups Cannabis Production Limits As Adult-Use Sales Loom |

Three months away from legalization of recreational marijuana in New Mexico state regulators increased the production limit for adult-use cannabis growers. The emergency regulations, which went into effect last Wednesday, allow licensed cannabis producers to cultivate twice as many plants than they were previously allowed under the same conditions.

Kristen Thomson, director of New Mexico’s Cannabis Control Division, said that the rule change is designed to help spur the launch of the state’s newly regulated adult-use cannabis industry, which is slated to begin sales of recreational marijuana by April 1.

“We have been listening to producers, consumers and patients who are as committed as the Cannabis Control Division is to supporting a thriving cannabis industry in New Mexico,” Thomson said on Monday in a statement quoted by NM Political Report. “Doubling the plant count for licensed producers makes sense to ensure that everyone can maximize the benefits of a thriving cannabis industry.”

According to the emergency rules that will stay in place until July, Level 4 marijuana growers with licenses will be allowed to produce between 12,001 and 16,000 cannabis cannabis plants. While Level 3 license holders can only plant 6,001 to 12,000 cannabis plants under license, Level 3 license holders are permitted to have as many as 12,000 to 6,000. Level 2 growers have the right to grow 2,001-6,000 marijuana plants and Level 1 growers may keep between 401-22,000 cannabis plants. Thomson explained the rule change in documents filed with the state’s Commission of Public Records.

“The Division has considered demand estimates provided by applicants and licensees in the cannabis industry,” Thomson wrote. “Projected market demand shows that the demand for regulated cannabis will increase year-to-year as more cannabis consumers move from the illicit market to the regulated market. The supply of medical cannabis will become increasingly threatened without an adequate supply of plants.”

The emergency rules will not increase the plant limits of micro-producers. These small-scale growers can still only produce 200 plants. The state law sets a maximum that regulators have no authority to exceed. Director said that the department was looking for a legislative solution to allow microproducers an identical increase in production.

“Equity and fairness are foundational principles of New Mexico’s vision for the state’s cannabis industry,” Thomson said. “We will work with legislators and the governor to ensure those values are upheld and that micro-producers see increased plant count limits as soon as possible.”

New Mexico: Overproduction Prevention Caps

The plant limits on cultivators were included in New Mexico’s cannabis regulations to prevent overproduction. The regulators feared that there would be a glut in cannabis, which could cause the prices to plummet dramatically. This scenario might make it difficult for small businesses trying to get a foothold within this new industry.

Last summer Linda Trujillo from the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department warned that recreational marijuana supplies would soon be limited once sales for adult use begin.

“It’s highly likely we will run out of cannabis in the first week, if not the first two weeks,” she said at a meeting of the legislature’s Economic Development and Policy Committee on July 26. Trujillo stated to legislators that her prediction was based upon the experiences of other states when they began adult-use cannabis sale.

Limits on cannabis production were first put in place under New Mexico’s medical marijuana program. Ultra Health, one of the state’s largest producers of medicinal cannabis, has sued the state over the caps, arguing that they are too low to serve New Mexico’s patient population. The company also stated that adult-use marijuana production limits are inadequate.

“Unfortunately, this increase may be too little, too late,” a spokeswoman for Ultra Health wrote in a statement to local media. “Sales to adults will commence in 74 days, and it takes twice as long, five months, for cannabis to be fully prepared from seed to sale. We are running on a deficit to support 130,000 patients today, so to think this new rule would somehow alter the biological processes required to grow cannabis is naive, at best.”

Ben Lewinger is the New Mexico Cannabis Chamber of Commerce’s executive director. He praised state regulators for taking into consideration potential shortages which could negatively affect those who rely on regular supplies of medical marijuana.

“Protecting patients and patient supply is absolutely critical and has been a first-order priority through recent legislative and rulemaking processes, and we’re grateful that the Cannabis Control Division is working to ensure that medical cannabis patients aren’t neglected as the state shifts to legalized cannabis for adults,” he said.

But Lewinger questioned the rule change, saying that doubling the cap on plants only weeks before legal sales begin “undermines the work of legislators and advocates” who advocated for production limits to allow equitable access to participation in the new recreational cannabis economy. 

“Building the infrastructure to double plant count could take months to years for most operators, and plants put in the ground today won’t be ready in April,” Lewinger said. “Increasing the plant count now will only help the very biggest and well-resourced producers—it won’t help medical cannabis patients and it won’t help new businesses trying to break into the industry.”