Lower than every week earlier than the New Mexico Division of Well being transferred authority over the state’s medical marijuana program to the newly created Hashish Management Division, officers opened a slender window for producers to use for a license for the primary time in six years.
However the division didn’t let anybody know.
Just one firm utilized, and it was issued a profitable “legacy” producer license for a $10,000 charge only a day earlier than the Medical Hashish Program was transferred between the 2 businesses. The transfer has sparked allegations of favoritism and requires an investigation by others within the hashish trade.
“In my view, this was a unclean affair,” mentioned Willie Ford, managing director of Reynold Greenleaf & Associates, a consulting agency for hashish companies. “This was clearly any individual making it occur for any individual else.”
The brand new Hashish Management Division of the state Regulation and Licensing Division was set to imagine regulatory authority June 29 over the medical marijuana program and a growing trade for authorized manufacturing and gross sales of leisure marijuana.
Below a “publications” tab on its web site, the Division of Well being posted a discover a number of days earlier titled “Medical Hashish Licensed Non-Revenue Producer Utility Directions.”
The June 23 posting, nonetheless, didn’t explicitly state the division was accepting new purposes, and the company didn’t promote the appliance window or in any other case make the general public conscious of the chance. An internet utility kind gave a June 28 deadline.
In accordance with paperwork obtained beneath a public data request, Albuquerque-based GH LLC, based by Vance Dugger, submitted a 713-page utility for a nonprofit medical hashish producer license June 25. On June 27, a Sunday, Dominick Zurlo, director of the state’s Medical Hashish Program, and Billy Jimenez, basic counsel and deputy secretary of the Division of Well being, personally inspected the corporate’s amenities. The division issued a license the next day.
Division of Well being spokeswoman Baylee Rawson wrote in an e mail Friday the company “typically posts bulletins by the web site.” The positioning is visited often by sufferers within the Medical Hashish Program and license holders, she added. “It’s also one of many main strategies used to current data and updates about this system together with assembly bulletins, affected person statistics, instructional supplies, and different experiences and paperwork.”
However Ford and others within the trade mentioned the appliance opening seems to have been stored secret intentionally.
“This new licensee course of has definitely ignited a good quantity of mistrust, raised eyebrows and questions,” mentioned Duke Rodriguez, president and CEO of New Mexico Prime Organics-Extremely Well being, the state’s largest medical hashish operation.
“There are a selection of fine people who’ve invested time, effort and assets whereas not understanding there might need been an specific lane,” he mentioned.
Larry Love, a medical marijuana advocate and host and producer of Santa Fe-based Medical Marijuana Radio, mentioned he is aware of “loads of individuals” who would have utilized for a license if that they had recognized the division was accepting new purposes for medical producers forward of the appliance course of for a license beneath the leisure hashish program.
He mentioned, “It simply doesn’t appear truthful to the general public, understanding that somebody was in a position to get a license forward of all people else.”
Rawson wrote in her e mail the Division of Well being had been working for a number of months “on opening licenses for added licensees to assist guarantee sufferers had further choices for acquiring their remedy.” She didn’t reply follow-up questions on whether or not the division had disclosed it was engaged on such an effort.
Requested in regards to the last-minute weekend inspection of GH’s amenities, Rawson wrote, “It’s not uncommon for MCP employees to work on weekends as a result of excessive workload and demand for providers.”
In response to questions on whether or not it was widespread for Zurlo and Jimenez to conduct inspections of potential producers, Rawson wrote Zurlo has “carried out many inspections,” however she didn’t didn’t tackle whether or not Jimenez usually took half.
Dugger, who can also be the CEO or founding father of three street service and towing firms, mentioned in a short interview Friday, “We submitted an utility like everybody else.”
The Hashish Management Division now processes all hashish licensing purposes.
“We’re actively reviewing lots of of producer license purposes — and amendments from current medical hashish companies,” spokeswoman Heather Brewer wrote in an e mail. “We stay up for working with every applicant to assist them full their utility or modification request within the order during which they have been obtained.”
Any licensing selections made previous to June 29 “have been made solely by the skilled group on the Division of Well being,” Brewer wrote.
Emails obtained beneath the general public data request present selections regarding GH LLC’s utility after the Medical Hashish Program switch have been made by prime officers within the Hashish Management Division. On Aug. 2, Nicole Bazzano, performing deputy director of enterprise operations for the division, requested Joshua Wilson, a well being and security specialist, for a standing replace on the inspection of GH and its manufacturing facility.
“It’s my impression that they’re simply ready on the inspection from you so as to begin producing/manufacturing, is that appropriate?” she wrote. “What can we do to get them taken care of and up and operating correctly and legally?”
The following day, Wilson wrote he “had to return and do a little bit of analysis on this one” and that he “largely” had no data on the license approval.
“The processing, inspection and approval have been finished at a degree above MCP License and Compliance employees,” he wrote. “After trying on the approval letter, it does seem that they have been issued some type of conditional approval permitting for the completion of infrastructure and requiring re-inspection earlier than being allowed to domesticate, manufacture, or distribute.”
Wilson additionally famous that GH LCC, which he referenced as GH Labs, initially utilized for a producing license.
“Nonetheless, GH Labs then utilized and was authorized for the [nonprofit producer license] that was opened for a number of days previous to the transition” to the Hashish Management Division, he wrote.
“Earlier than GH Labs submitted the [nonprofit producer license] utility, I had drafted a denial letter relating to a number of lacking objects and the truth that the appliance included parts for cultivation moderately than manufacturing. Thus, the submitted manufacturing utility was partly for the improper license sort. … I imagine this was in the end disregarded at a better degree” due to the medical hashish license, “which allowed for manufacturing.”
Neither Wilson nor Bazzano responded to a request for remark.
Rodriguez, of Extremely Well being, mentioned the hashish trade is “up in arms” over the license issued to GH LLC.
“If there actually was a want to open [the application process] up, how many individuals would have utilized previous to June 28?” he requested, including firms coming into the leisure marijuana enterprise with a so-called legacy license have big benefits.
“You get the mack daddy of licenses,” he mentioned. “You’re the vertically built-in license that lets you do all the things — produce, manufacturing — you are able to do all these issues. The brand new method beneath the [Cannabis Regulation Act] makes you topic to having this silo impact. You must get a license for manufacturing. You must get a license for retail. You must get a license for manufacturing.”
“It is a lottery ticket,” Rodriguez mentioned, including individuals within the trade are referring to the license approval as “weedgate.”
Love, the radio host and producer, agreed.
“It’s a license to print cash,” he mentioned.
Ford, of Reynold Greenleaf & Associates, mentioned the matter must be investigated by authorities and the GH license ought to be suspended till the investigation is full.
“There was an entire course of they went by final time with a window of utility interval,” he mentioned, referring to an utility opening in early 2015. “I didn’t see any of that occuring right here. …
“It goes towards a good, degree enjoying area for individuals who wish to be on this trade,” added Ford, who additionally serves as board chairman of R. Greenleaf Organics, a hashish cultivation and dispensary operation in New Mexico. “It simply stinks of favoritism.”