FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Paula Garcia
Acequias Cry Foul on Cannabis Legislation
(Santa Fe, NM). Acequias are denouncing a last-minute gutting of water protections in the Cannabis Regulation Act. On Sunday morning, a Senate committee met to consider a bill dealing with cannabis plant count limits. Without notice or opportunity for public comment, the committee adopted an amendment eliminating existing requirements aimed at preventing illegal uses of water.
“We worked very hard with the legislature in 2021 to enact safeguards for water resources from the negative impacts of the cannabis industry,” said Paula Garcia, Executive Director of the New Mexico Acequia Association. “In a few minutes, with no opportunity for public comment, all that hard work was erased.”
Senator Pirtle, a Roswell Republican, introduced an amendment to SB 100 to remove language in the Cannabis Regulation Act requiring cannabis producers have valid water rights. The only dissenting vote was Senator Linda Lopez, the bill sponsor who called the amendment “not friendly.” Three of the committee members who are attorneys practicing cannabis law cited their own experience and argued that the water rights requirements were burdensome.
“We are calling upon the full Senate to remove the amendment that gutted the water protections,” Garcia remarked. “If the Legislature was planning to remove the water protections, stakeholders including the acequias should have been consulted.”
Harold Trujillo, President of the NMAA and a member of the Cannabis Advisory Committee, countered remarks by the committee that the removal of water protections would benefit smaller producers. “We are concerned that the cause of equity is being misrepresented,” said Trujillo. “The root cause of inequity is the lack of capital for micro-producers. Requiring validity checks for water actually ensures water equity for rural communities such as mutual domestics and acequias.”
In a public meeting in November 2021, the OSE reported that they had received approximately twenty requests for water rights validation and that the majority did not meet validity checks. “We have learned from other states as well as specific examples of medical producers in New Mexico that the cannabis industry is unique in its apparent problem of illegal water use,” remarked Garcia. “As one of the most water-scarce states in the nation, New Mexico needs extra safeguards for our precious water.”