Pubdate: Fri, 08 Jan 2016
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Copyright: 2016 Albuquerque Journal


Medical marijuana producers told state health officials Wednesday 
that disclosing the locations of growing facilities would invite 
criminals to burglarize the sites, while open-records advocates 
countered that greater transparency will help ensure fair and 
effective management of the state's cannabis program.

"We have a product that criminals want," said Eric Briones, founder 
of the Minerva Canna Group of Los Ranchos, one of 23 nonprofits 
licensed by the state Department of Health to grow and sell medical 
pot. Minerva must conduct its business in cash because banks don't 
take deposits from cannabis growers, he said. "We have cannabis and 
we have cash."

Briones was among dozens of speakers at a New Mexico Department of 
Health hearing in Santa Fe to get public comment about proposed rule 
changes to New Mexico's medical cannabis program. Those changes would 
remove a confidentiality provision that conceals information about 
licensed nonprofit producers, including the locations of growing 
facilities and the identities of board members and employees.

Craig Erickson, an attorney acting as the hearing officer for the 
proposed rules, said he will draft a recommendation within 30 days 
for Health Secretary Rhetta Ward, who will make a final decision 
about the new rules.

Kip Purcell, an attorney who filed a lawsuit in July against the 
Department of Health seeking public disclosure about medical cannabis 
producers, said growers knowingly assumed the risk of producing a 
product that remains illegal under federal law.

Purcell filed the lawsuit on behalf of freelance journalist Peter St. 
Cyr and the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government. It contends 
that concealing the identities of dispensaries and producers violates 
the state's Inspection of Public Records Act.
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