Employees of a cannabis dispensary in New Mexico filed a whistleblower complaint against the state’s regulators, alleging that they were unfairly targeted and threatened by law enforcement.
The quality control agent job description is a position that has been created to help oversee the quality of cannabis products. Employees are seeking to add a whistleblower complaint to an existing suit against New Mexico’s Cannabis Regulators.
Four state workers who originally sued the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department over their job assignments have requested the court to allow them to add additional claims to the case. Last Monday, the four plaintiffs submitted a petition to add claims that RLD and its Cannabis Control Division violated the state’s Whistleblower Protection Act to their lawsuit.
In their proposed amended complaint, Matilde Colomo, Matthew Peralta, Martinik Gonzales, and Jude Vigil claim that their bosses broke state law by ignoring employee concerns about an illegal cannabis grow, moldy cannabis, and an edible cannabis product that allegedly caused a consumer to have a “adverse reaction.”
The judge in the case must still authorize the filing of the revised complaint before it can proceed, and RLD opposes the request, according to the latest filing.
The four plaintiffs formerly worked for the state Department of Health’s Medical Cannabis Program until Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the Cannabis Regulation Act, which prompted them to transfer to RLD. The four workers claimed in their first complaint that they were compelled to go to Santa Fe three times a week, despite the fact that they worked for the Department of Health in Albuquerque. They are now requesting that the court examine new accusations against the state.
According to the four plaintiffs, RLD received a “customer complaint” concerning mildew in a cannabis product approximately two weeks after they were informed they would have to report to a different location. However, the plaintiffs claim that an interim director of business operations refused to investigate the matter because there were no rules or processes in place for such a situation.
According to the plaintiffs, Vigil and Colomo visited a suspected illicit cannabis grow facility on the same day the four workers submitted their first complaint and discovered more than 400 plants without an official state tracking number. According to the lawsuit, a policy director originally informed Vigil and Colomo that the plants should be destroyed, but they were soon ordered to change their minds.
“When Plaintiffs ordered the grower to destroy the plants, the grower’s ‘boss’ informed Plaintiffs that he received authorization to retain the plants from an unidentified man who worked ‘high up’ in the RLD and from Superintendent of the RLD, Linda Trujillo,” according to the lawsuit.
The policy director allegedly instructed Vigil and Colomo not to destroy the plants and that Trujillo would appoint an investigator to investigate into the suspected unlawful grow, according to the plaintiffs.
The four workers claim that the state never examined the cannabis producer in issue, and that RLD nevertheless permitted the company to get a cannabis cultivation license.
According to the lawsuit, RLD neglected to investigate a customer complaint filed on Aug. 13 alleging that an edible product produced a “adverse response.”
In all of the alleged cases, according to the latest lawsuit, RLD executives should have followed DOH recommendations until RLD completed its own rules and regulations.
The failure to investigate violated the Cannabis Regulation Act, which obliged the RLD to follow the Medical Cannabis Program’s protocols and processes until it established its own regulations, according to the lawsuit.
Furthermore, the four workers claim that RLD broke state law by failing to address their concerns.
“Under [the Whistleblower Protection Act], the RLD’s refusal to examine whether a potentially hazardous product needs to be withdrawn from sale constitutes an act that poses a significant and particular risk to the public,” the lawsuit says.
The four further claim they have faced retribution as a result of expressing their concerns.
Gonzales was allegedly “denied permission to continue in any capacity as License and Compliance Program Manager and was forced to take a different position with the State of New Mexico in order to save her 19-year-old career, which resulted in a pay cut thereof” after Vigil and Peralta were allegedly “removed from handling investigations.”
The four workers were also not provided desk phones, are not permitted to “speak to anybody without first running it by managers,” and RLD has made “false written allegations that the Plaintiffs are missing deadlines,” according to the lawsuit.
RLD spokeswoman Heather Brewer said the agency does not comment on ongoing litigation, as is customary for other state agencies, but that safe cannabis is a top priority.
“The goal of the Cannabis Control Division is to promote the state’s safe, flourishing adult-use and medicinal cannabis businesses,” Brewer stated. “The CCD takes its job extremely seriously and does not comment on legal matters that are ongoing.”
The revised lawsuit is not certain to be approved by the court in the case, and RLD may yet submit a petition challenging it.
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