The New Mexico Senate on Monday narrowly approved an amendment to the state’s cannabis regulation bill that would no longer require cannabis producers and manufacturers to prove they have water rights for their businesses, The Paper reports. The proposal is opposed by the New Mexico Acequia Association, whose Executive Director, Paula Garcia, said the organization was “blindsided” by the legislation’s approval and that the group had no time to intercede or comment on it.
The state’s legalization law had originally included a paragraph requiring cannabis businesses to prove they have the water rights to receive an industry license.
“That paragraph was something we advocated for really strongly last year as part of the agreement to pass the Cannabis Regulation Act. When you get a cannabis license, you should demonstrate you have valid water rights.” – Garcia to The Paper
The amendment by Sen. Cliff Pirtle (R) does include language allowing the state to revoke a business’ license if the business does not have the rights to the water it uses; however, Pirtle said requiring proof of the water rights upfront is preventing a lot of microbusinesses from entering the space. He said that he knows farmers who lease from other farmers with water rights but cannot prove they have the rights themselves and that urban operators can just tap into existing urban water supplies and prove proof of access.
“It’s unnecessary red tape,” Pirtle said during the Sunday committee hearing, according to The Paper. “It’s already illegal to pump water and grow corn as opposed to cannabis or any other plant. It adds unnecessary burden on other licensees, especially on microbusinesses.”
Democratic Sen. Linda Lopez, one of the 19 senators that opposed the measure – which passed by just one vote – said that other communities, aside from the Acequia Association, “have concerns about the availability of water.”
“There are other crops that use much more water in a drought situation,” she told The Paper. “This is something very astute, to make sure applicants are showing [they] have access and rights to the water that can be used for this product.”
The Paper notes that New Mexico is in an ongoing “megadrought.”
The cannabis regulation bill must still pass through a House committee, which could put back in the water rights provision, and the full chamber. The state’s legislative session ends Thursday.
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