Cannabis bill revives debate over scarce water - Albuquerque Journal

Cannabis bill revives debate over scarce water

Cannabis plants are grown indoors at High Desert Relief in Albuquerque. A bill nearing final legislative approval would remove a requirement for producers to prove they have a valid water right before receiving a cannabis license. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

A bill nearing final approval at the Roundhouse has sparked debate about New Mexico’s rules governing water use and cannabis production.

The latest version of Senate Bill 100 would remove a requirement for producers to show proof of a valid water right before receiving a cannabis license.

The bill was originally scheduled for the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday after securing Senate approval earlier this week, but a lengthy House floor session prevented that committee from meeting.

Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, said the original rule was a roadblock for small farmers looking to grow recreational marijuana.

“I don’t have to prove to anybody when I’m growing corn or cotton that I have a legal right to the water,” Pirtle said. “It’s illegal to pump water for any other purpose than what you have a right to do, so why are we putting this up front and creating such a barrier for businesses to get involved in this industry?”

A coalition led by the New Mexico Acequia Association argues the provision was a “guardrail” against illegal water use.

NMAA Executive Director Paula Garcia pointed to a medical cannabis grower that was using domestic water supplies in the small communities of Sile and Peña Blanca.

“We’re not against cannabis cultivation,” Garcia said. “This is about protecting water for our communities and for future generations.”

The Office of the State Engineer currently validates water rights for cannabis licenses.

“We’re seeing it already that some of these cannabis entities think they’ve got their water rights in order, but they may be using a domestic well or a water right that’s not valid,” said John Romero, the office’s water resource allocation program director.

Romero said he expects a flood of water rights applications for cannabis in the coming months.

Certification may include research on the property’s water rights history and hydrological models to determine if the water use would impinge on other users.

The bulk of proposed changes to last year’s cannabis laws would boost plant counts and regulate taxes on cannabis products.

Water use changes first made an appearance at the Feb. 13 Senate Judiciary Committee.

The panel voted to remove a section that made cannabis licenses conditional upon water rights documentation.

Original bill sponsor Sen. Linda Lopez said that section protected scarce water supplies.

“A simple demonstration of the availability of water for you to use for growing this product is, I think, very appropriate,” the Albuquerque Democrat said.

The Senate adopted Pirtle’s amendment allowing the state to revoke a cannabis license “if a licensee is using water to which the licensee does not have a legal right.”

Garcia said she believes that change is insufficient. “It’s really hard to rein in an illegal use when it’s already started,” she said.

Theresa Davis is a Report for America corps member covering water and the environment for the Albuquerque Journal.

Home » ABQnews Seeker » Cannabis bill revives debate over scarce water

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages


Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
California lone holdout in consensus for Colorado River cuts
ABQnews Seeker
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) -- Six western ... FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) -- Six western states that rely on water from the Colorado River have agreed on a model to dramatically cut water ...
Senate panel, on party-line vote, approves bill increasing minimum ...
ABQnews Seeker
A push to increase the minimum ... A push to increase the minimum age to buy certain firearms from 18 to 21 cleared its first Senate hurdle Monday, after a heated ...
Bill aimed at bolstering NM's patchwork rural health care ...
ABQnews Seeker
A proposal to tap New Mexico's ... A proposal to tap New Mexico's revenue windfall to bolster health care services in rural parts of the state where residents frequently have to ...
New Mexico bill to restrict lobbyist ‘revolving door’ advances
ABQnews Seeker
A proposal moving through the Senate ... A proposal moving through the Senate would prohibit former legislators and appointees working under the governor from returning immediately to the Roundhouse as paid ...
New Mexico’s checkerspot butterfly placed on Endangered Species List
ABQnews Seeker
With more Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterflies ... With more Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterflies being raised at the ABQ BioPark than found in the wild, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is ...
No drama for birthday llama: ABQ llama celebrates 27th ...
ABQnews Seeker
'This llama is bringing everyone together,' ... 'This llama is bringing everyone together,' says family friend
Photos: UNM Lobos men's basketball team take on Air ...
ABQnews Seeker
UNM College of Nursing programs receive high ranking from ...
ABQnews Seeker
The University of New Mexico's College ... The University of New Mexico's College of Nursing online master of science in nursing programs ...
Days after New Mexico records coldest temperature in lower ...
ABQnews Seeker
A small New Mexico village known ... A small New Mexico village known for its ski resort took the spot as one of the country's coldest places on Thursday last week. ...