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US: "New Mexico needs a cannabis director who isn’t in the industry"

The constant turnover at the helm of the New Mexico Cannabis Control Division (CCD), which has cycled through three leaders over its short history, signals dysfunction and undermines public trust. Now, with a new director opening, we have the opportunity to get this right. The state government should hire a health care professional to run CCD who will put public health ahead of industry interests.

The CCD has experienced much turmoil since it was established in April 2021. Kristen Thomson, a former lobbyist for the marijuana industry who was its first director, served from November 2021 until June 2022. Thomson was followed by Carolina Barrera, who resigned as the acting director in August 2022. And Barrera was succeeded by Andrew Vallejos, who just announced his resignation. A director has yet to last more than eight months.

This turmoil has resulted in the CCD’s failure to ensure the compliance of the budding marijuana industry. KQRE reported the state had conducted “about 100 inspections” of dispensaries and found nearly one-third were non-compliant with regulations. Target 7 discovered “some dispensaries are selling out-of-state marijuana, which in some cases puts consumers at risk.”

Notably, there appears to be a revolving door between the CCD, the taxpayer-funded agency responsible for regulating the marijuana industry, and the industry itself. Kristen Thomson, the one-time director of the CCD, and Bobbi Martinez, the CCD’s compliance manager, both took jobs with Weeds, a pro-marijuana consulting firm. Weeds eagerly announced Martinez “literally helped write the book on compliance in New Mexico” and had “done almost every job in the cannabis industry.” The appearance of a conflict of interest erodes trust in the ostensibly impartial regulators expected to safeguard public health.


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