New Mexico advisory committee seeks input on equity in the cannabis industry

New Mexico advisory committee seeks input on equity in the cannabis industry

By Bella Davis

Social and economic equity, from licensing to employment, has been a hot button issue in New Mexico’s burgeoning cannabis industry, and there are a few ways for the public to weigh in as recommendations are crafted.

The Cannabis Regulatory Advisory Committee—tasked with advising the Cannabis Control Division—allowed for public comment on equity at its Thursday meeting and posted an online survey seeking feedback on the development of a plan to promote participation in the industry by members of communities that have been disproportionately harmed by the drug war.

The committee, which held its first meeting in early August, has had about three months to create recommendations on equity, which chairwoman Emily Kaltenbach of the Drug Policy Alliance tells SFR is “both not enough time and too much time” because “equity cannot wait.”

“There are so many well-established cannabis businesses that will easily move in and take over the marketplace and we want to make sure that those that might need access to capital or technical assistance or other support services, loans, will have a chance at being successful in this new industry,” Kaltenbach says during an interview last month.

The survey includes questions about the biggest barriers to entry for business owners and workers, eligibility criteria for those applying for equity assistance—like, for example, an arrest for a cannabis misdemeanor or felony—and what strategies by the state would be most effective in addressing issues of equity.

One such strategy is loans. Lawmakers on the New Mexico Finance Authority Oversight Committee last month rejected a proposal to allow up to $5 million dedicated to loans for cannabis microbusinesses with 200 mature plants or less.

New Mexico Finance Authority CEO Marquita Russel told lawmakers that microbusinesses “have very few options” for financing, but some lawmakers said more questions needed to be answered before the proposal could be approved.

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