New Mexico Falls Short on Cannabis Sector Background Checks

Issues with New Mexico's Laws on Cannabis Sector Background Checks

A few decades ago, it seemed unlikely that the legal status of cannabis would ever change dramatically across the entire United States. Today though, nearly half the states have legalized recreational cannabis, and many more have medical marijuana programs. Along the way, including cannabis sector background checks has been an important point for many lawmakers. Such screening aims to empower legitimate businesses and entrepreneurs to enter this new industry and keep criminals and money laundering away from the enterprise.

In many states, robust requirements for screening candidates for cannabis licenses have ensured that such protections are in place and effective. However, not every state has seen such success—in at least one example, rushed legislation and a lack of oversight have created a potentially dangerous situation. In New Mexico, the arrival of recreational cannabis should've come with a strict licensing procedure. Instead, a simple oversight could allow hardened criminals to operate legitimate cannabis companies.

What Went Wrong With New Mexico's Law?

In the original language of the New Mexico cannabis law, there was a requirement for FBI fingerprint-based background checks for cannabis companies seeking a state license. Unfortunately, elements of the law do not fully comport with FBI regulations on sending such vetting requests. As such, the FBI currently does not accept any background check requests from New Mexico's cannabis licensing agencies.

The result: the state only relies on criminal history reporting from within its borders. Someone with a severe criminal record, even federal drug convictions, could theoretically arrive in New Mexico and stand up a new cannabis business while flying under the radar. Indeed, there have already been instances when members of a notorious Mexican drug cartel received a license in New Mexico.

Legislative Collaboration is Essential in Today's Complex Environment

The problems in the NM law highlight the importance of collaboration and care in the lawmaking process. Despite efforts to correct the deficiencies in the law, amendments that would allow FBI checks to go forward have so far failed to leave the committee. Other states should take notice, especially those planning to explore cannabis legalization. Collaborating with the private sector, law enforcement, and federal resources is essential for making effective laws.

Can Partnerships With Private Companies Help?

State and federal vetting systems can face serious strain and long backlogs because of the requirements for cannabis background screening. Private consumer reporting agencies could assist by filling in the gaps. Through curated databases of criminal records from nationwide sources, agencies could still effectively vet licensing candidates even while waiting on results from other processes. Keeping bad actors from slipping through the cracks is vital, and private-public partnerships could be the answer.

Looking to the Future of a Safer Cannabis Industry

Will New Mexico correct its legislative error? With the failure of the most recent effort to do so, it's uncertain what the future holds. Legislators in future sessions may revive the effort, or it may take a shocking headline to create the necessary impetus for change. For now, other states should look to New Mexico's stumbles on cannabis sector background checks as a cautionary tale. A measured, in-depth approach to crafting marijuana legislation is essential for creating a safe, fair, and well-regulated industry in this emerging space.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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