Medical pot dispensary New MexiCann closes after workers hurt in fire

Dillon Mullan, The Santa Fe New Mexican
·2 min read

Apr. 11—New MexiCann Natural Medicine is closing medical cannabis dispensaries in Northern New Mexico following an explosion in October that severely injured workers and led to criminal charges against the company's executive director.

Carlos Gonzales, 56, of Santa Fe was charged in February with two felony counts of arson. Earlier that month, the state Department of Health said it was considering revoking the company's production and sales license because of the fire, which was the second in five years at New MexiCann's headquarters in Santa Fe.

Spokesmen for the Department of Health could not be reached for comment Saturday on whether New MexiCann's medical cannabis license had been pulled.

Employees at locations in Santa Fe and Las Vegas, N.M., said Saturday the stores were holding sales on products and that it was their last day of business. They declined to comment further.

Locations in Española and Taos were closed Saturday.

The closures of the medical cannabis company's locations come as the state is preparing to develop a production and sales system for legal recreational use of cannabis, following passage of legislation during a special session called by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in late March.

According to a criminal complaint filed in February in Santa Fe County Magistrate Court, Gonzales is accused of switching out a hot plate in the marijuana extraction room at the medical cannabis company's San Mateo Lane headquarters to one that goes against manufacturing standards, leading to the fire.

Josh Alderete, one of the victims in the explosion, was asked to take over the extraction process due to an absent co-worker and warned Gonzales about changing the hot plates, the complaint states. He also indicated the plate was set at the highest setting, 500 degrees, against manufacturing standards for the THC extraction process.

Josh Martinez, who spent several weeks recovering in the University of Colorado Medical Center burn unit after being airlifted from Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, told investigators he was asked to assist in the process despite not having the necessary training and had heard of Gonzales altering the process prior to inspections and then switching it back.

Another explosion occurred in 2015, when two other employees were burned. The state Occupational Safety and Health Bureau issued fines totaling $13,500 against the business and cited the business for 12 "serious" workplace violations. One of the victims in the 2015 explosion, Nick Montoya, sued the business.

Immediately after the fire, the Department of Health suspended the company's ability to manufacture cannabis-derived products, and the state Department of Health notified New MexiCann earlier this month that it was considering revoking the company's license to produce medical cannabis due to the October fire.