Cannabis industry leaders ask state to pause new licenses

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s been more than a year since recreational marijuana became legal in New Mexico. Since then, more than 1,000 dispensaries have been licensed by the state.

However, some industry leaders say that is too many.

This week, nearly 100 dispensaries, producers, and private citizens signed a letter sent to the governor’s office asking her to make some changes.

The letter said, in part:

An unfortunate byproduct of the free-market approach that our state took for licensing new operators is a saturation of regulated and illegal cannabis products in New Mexico. These two factors are resulting in homegrown small and medium-sized cannabis businesses being forced to close their doors or lay off staff. Our local businesses simply cannot compete with the illicit market and the immense oversupply.

In April, when the state celebrated one year of legalization, some dispensaries pointed out the field is getting pretty crowded.

“When you go down to the individual business level, they are struggling a little bit because of this competition,” Verdes CFO Jon Updegraff said.

When KOB 4 spoke to Updegraff in April there were 633 dispensaries in the state – 157 of those are in the Albuquerque metro.

“When you think of the competition in that sense it’s been very stiff,” Updegraff said.

Fast forward to June, and now there are 1,006 dispensaries across New Mexico.

Some businesses, like Herban Oasis Dispensary, are trying to stand out in the crowded industry by offering yoga and puff and paint classes. But they are still struggling to draw a crowd.

“You know, I feel like the cannabis industry is getting kind of saturated, right now with a lot of dispensaries coming up,” CEO Nia Harris said.

The letter goes on to suggest three policy changes, they say will provide relief to those trying to keep their business open:

  • First, we believe the cannabis control division should have a mechanism to both pause new cannabis licensees and provide regulators with a safety valve to turn the application acceptance process back on when the regulated market has stabilized and has proper resources to ensure compliance for all operators.
  • Second, we believe the state should commission a market study to determine when the above-mentioned safety valve should be turned back on to ensure ongoing opportunity for entrepreneurs to access the cannabis industry.
  • Finally, the state of New Mexico should dedicate significant resources to the compliance and enforcement of licensees and prosecution of illegal actors with the goal of reopening the safety valve.

KOB 4 reached out to the governor for a response to this letter and a spokesperson from her office said they will continue to work closely with the industry to identify any adjustments that need to be made to ensure the industry is properly regulated. No word on what those adjustments might be.