Next week, a New Mexico district judge is scheduled to hear arguments for and against a group of state employees adding a Whistleblower Protection Act lawsuit to an already pending lawsuit against the state’s Department of Regulation and Licensing.
initial claim, Presented by four employees of the cannabis control department, alleges that management and the Department of Cannabis Control violated a state employee law by moving their worksite from Albuquerque to Santa Fe. The new complaint to the four employees included allegations of retaliation and alleged inaction by management when employees reported what they said was an illegal cannabis development process.
The hearing is scheduled for December 1.
Now that having perused the documents obtained through the Public Records Requisition, NM . political report RLD and its cannabis control division have learned that the company is in compliance after being accused of having too many plants.
On July 12, 2021, RLD received advice, via email, that medicinal cannabis producer Budding Hope was growing “over 6,000 plants illegally”. The person who sent the email, whose name is withheld by the department, followed up twice within a week with more details. By July 27, Matilde Colomo, a department inspector for cannabis control and one of the plaintiffs in the suit, emailed Deputy Director of Policy Robert Sacks with a summary of what he and another inspector found at the Hope planting site.
“With your consent, we will direct the individual who brings the plants to destroy them,” Colomo told Sacks in the email.
But about 30 minutes later, Colomo sent another email to Sachs to confirm new instructions on how to handle the Budding Hope process.
“On your instructions from Superintendent Linda Trujillo, we have been asked to inform Budding Hope that they do not have to destroy the illegal farm that has been verified today,” Colomo wrote. “Instead, they are allowed to keep the illegal plants but they have to make sure that vital track numbers are attached to them ASAP and they must be submitted with the renewal license at the end of the week.”
Sachs, in his response, asserted that “all the points” in Colomo’s email were correct.
In another follow-up email, former RLD Deputy Superintendent John Blair wrote that the issue will be assigned to an investigator with the RLD’s Securities Division, ie compliance with the state’s Uniform Licensing Act, which provides a level of due process for certain license holders.
“Going forward, we have to ensure that our inspectors are not in a position to examine allegations of wrongdoing and that they are also serving as a judge and jury on site without any due process of law,” Blair wrote in an email dated July 28. .
Heather Brewer, a spokeswoman for the Department of Cannabis Control, said: NM . political report that the department followed it up and found Budding Hope to be in compliance.
“As part of the Department of Cannabis Control’s ongoing efforts to ensure an open, fair and transparent regulatory process, two attorneys from the Regulatory and Licensing Department conducted an on-site inspection to pursue the investigation,” Brewer said. “Budding Hope has been found to be in compliance.”
According to the records he obtained NM . political report, Gregory Stover, special agent for RLD’s Securities Division, compiled a “summary and observation” report after a July 30 meeting with three of the four plaintiffs in the lawsuit against RLD. Stover said he found that inspectors made two visits to Budding Hope as part of the licensing process under the RLD, but that the third visit occurred after the Cannabis Control Department received a complaint that Budding Hope was growing more cannabis than allowed. Stauffer recommended that department of cannabis control inspectors visit sites no more than twice and leave investigations of illegal plants to law enforcement. Furthermore, Stover writes that since Budding Hope was sanctioned by the New Mexico Department of Health in 2019 for “nearly 1,300 plants without labels,” and inspectors have already performed an undisclosed third check, the inspectors may be better off not Visiting Budding Hope for a fourth time.
“After all that has happened with Budding Hope so far, I am concerned that the fourth re-inspection visit may be deemed by the courts not only wholly unnecessary, but potentially in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights and possibly harassment.”
It’s not clear exactly what the discrepancy was between Budding Hope’s early inspections and the department’s attorney search, but in Colomo’s July 27 email it stated that Budding Hope had “approximately 425 plants over 12 [inches]”No tracking number. Previous rules under the Department of Health considered anything over 12 inches tall as a mature plant, while the new cannabis law defines a mature plant as in the flowering stage of growth.”
Brewer, a spokesperson for the Department of Cannabis Control, emphasized that plants that are not in the flowering stage do not need to be tracked.
“The cannabis control division does not include immature plants in the producer’s plant count,” Brewer said. “There are no requirements to trace immature plants.”
Brewer also said the department has a specific process for investigations that also complies with the Uniform Licensing Act.
“The process includes gathering information and reviewing information to determine compliance or non-compliance,” Brewer said. “If a company is found to be in non-compliance, the CCD may issue a Notice of Conceived Action, which could include potential action against the company’s license. The licensee can request a hearing or demonstrate compliance and the CCD may choose to enter into a settlement agreement indicating that The issue has been resolved and the licensee will abide by the CRA and CCD rules.”
The attorneys for the four plaintiffs and the RLD in the lawsuit against the department and its cannabis control division, are scheduled to appear in court next week to discuss whether it was appropriate to add the Whistleblower Protection Act claim to the original lawsuit or whether it needed to be filed separately.