New Mex­ico re­vokes dis­pen­sary li­cense for the first time

The Taos News - - BUSINESS - By Thom Cole tcole@sfnewmex­i­can.com

A com­pany with dis­pen­saries in Las Cruces and Al­bu­querque is the first med­i­cal cannabis pro­ducer in New Mex­ico to have its li­cense re­voked.

State Health Sec­re­tary Lynn Gal­lagher last week re­voked the li­cense of Mother Earth Herbs, ef­fec­tive March 31.

Gal­lagher also per­ma­nently banned the com­pany’s pres­i­dent and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Vi­vian Moore, from work­ing in any ca­pac­ity for any med­i­cal cannabis li­censee.Mother Earth Herbs and Moore were ac­cused of sub­mit­ting fal­si­fied au­dits to the state Health De­part­ment, which over­sees the med­i­cal cannabis pro­gram. The pro­gram was cre­ated in 2007.

Moore has de­nied fal­si­fy­ing the au­dits and said in an email Mon­day that, “We will con­tinue to fight the false al­le­ga­tions made against me and Mother Earth Herbs, Inc. through the courts.”

Mother Earth Herbs and Moore can chal­lenge Gal­lagher’s ac­tions in state district court.

Mother Earth Herbs is one of about three dozen li­censed med­i­cal cannabis producers serv­ing more than 58,000 pa­tients ap­proved for the New Mex­ico pro­gram. As of Aug.1, Taos had two non­profit cannabis producers li­censed through the state – New Mex­i­cann Nat­u­ral Medicine and South­west Well­ness Cen­ter.

Mother Earth Herbs has been in busi­ness since 2010 and is li­censed by the de­part­ment to pro­duce 450 plants. It be­gan with a dis­pen­sary in Las Cruces and ex­panded to Al­bu­querque last year.

Li­censed med­i­cal cannabis producers are re­quired to sub­mit an­nual au­dits to the health de­part­ment. The au­dits must be con­ducted by in­de­pen­dent cer­ti­fied pub­lic ac­coun­tants.

The de­part­ment no­ti­fied Mother Earth Herbs and Moore in Jan­uary that it planned to re­voke the pro­ducer’s li­cense and ban Moore from the med­i­cal cannabis pro­gram for sub­mit­ting fal­si­fied au­dits for 2014 and 2015.

Mother Earth Herbs and Moore protested the pro­posed ac­tions. The health de­part­ment brought in an out­side lawyer, Craig Erickson, to serve as hear­ing ex­am­iner. After hear­ing tes­ti­mony in April and June he rec­om­mended that the de­part­ment move for­ward with its pro­posed ac­tion against the com­pany and Moore.

In her de­ci­sion, Gal­lagher said Erickson’s rec­om­men­da­tions were “ap­pro­pri­ate based on the facts and law.”

Erickson wrote in his 133page re­port that he didn’t find Moore to be cred­i­ble.

Moore said the au­dits for 2014 and 2015 were pre­pared by an ac­coun­tant who had done pre­vi­ous work for Mother Earth Herbs, ac­cord­ing to Erickson’s re­port. The ac­coun­tant said his sig­na­tures on the au­dits were forged.

Erickson also noted Moore had failed to pro­duce any doc­u­men­ta­tion that the ac­coun­tant was hired or paid by Mother Earth Herbs for the au­dits.

The hear­ing of­fi­cer re­jected ar­gu­ments by at­tor­neys for Mother Earth Herbs and Moore that the pro­posed ac­tions against the pro­ducer and its ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor were too se­vere when com­pared to the al­leged mis­con­duct.

Erickson rec­om­mended Gal­lagher give Mother Earth Herbs a rea­son­able time to shut down if the sec­re­tary de­cided to re­voke the pro­ducer’s li­cense.

Gabriela Cam­pos/The New Mex­i­can

A hand­ful of med­i­cal cannabis at a dis­pen­sary in Al­bu­querque.

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