While most government employees had Thursday off in honor of Veterans Day, John Blair was busy at the office.

He was packing up his desk.

Less than a year after becoming deputy superintendent of the state Regulation and Licensing Department, a high-profile job that includes standing up the regulatory and licensing framework for the state’s new adult-use recreational cannabis industry, Blair is stepping down. His last day is Friday.

Blair’s unexpected departure, which he announced in an email Wednesday, has sparked speculation he was forced out. Blair said he wasn’t pushed, though he said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham had a different job for him in mind.

Blair said he decided to leave in pursuit of “another great opportunity that I feel really passionate about. So, I’m choosing to take that.”

Later, he said, “I wasn’t asked to leave the department. I think the governor was interested in having me do some other stuff within state government and ... I had this other great opportunity outside of state government, and so I thought it would be a good time to move on.”

He declined to disclose what the governor wanted him to do.

“I would direct you to the Governor’s Office to ask them about that,” he said.

Nora Meyers Sackett, the governor’s press secretary, wrote in an email she was unfamiliar “with that personal conversation” between the governor and Blair.

“But John Blair has many years of experience in public service, both at the federal level and the state level, with expertise applicable to a variety of areas,” she wrote. “We’re grateful for his work on behalf of the state and wish him great luck in his next steps.”

The Regulation and Licensing Department has already hired Blair’s successor. Victor Reyes, the governor’s former legislative director, has been tapped as the new deputy superintendent.

Reyes did not return a message seeking comment.

Reyes left his job in the Governor’s Office at the beginning of the year to run for the 1st Congressional District when former U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland vacated the seat to serve as U.S. secretary of the interior. However, former state Rep. Melanie Stansbury won the seat.

Heather Brewer, a spokeswoman for the department’s Cannabis Control Division, wrote in an email the division’s “entire team ... is sad to be saying goodbye” to Blair.

“But we wish him all the best in his next adventure,” she wrote. “Everyone is looking forward to working with newly appointed Deputy Superintendent Victor Reyes to continue CCD’s work to stand up a thriving adult-use cannabis industry in New Mexico.”

Asked whether the Governor’s Office was involved in Reyes’ hiring, Brewer wrote she wasn’t involved in personnel decisions.

Like Reyes, Blair has also sought public office. He ran unsuccessfully for the 3rd Congressional District in 2020. He finished sixth out of seven candidates in the Democratic primary with less than 5 percent of the vote.

Exactly where Blair is headed next remains a secret. Blair said he would disclose his new job “when that’s confirmed.”

Blair, who previously served as deputy Secretary of State, joined the Regulation and Licensing Department in July 2020 as director of the Boards and Commission Division. In January, he was promoted to deputy superintendent and continued to serve as division director until July, when the department hired a replacement.

“Most of my work since January has been about passing adult-use cannabis and then standing up the industry,” he said.

Blair also said he’s “super proud” of the work the Cannabis Control Division has been doing to prepare the state for the sales of recreational marijuana.

“There’s a great group here, from Superintendent [Linda] Trujillo all the way down, and I’m excited to see what they’re able to get done in these next few months to make this industry real,” he said.

Blair said New Mexico is well positioned to embark on the new industry. Retail sales of commercial cannabis are scheduled to begin no later than April.

“It doesn’t seem like it, but this industry has only been alive for four months,” he said. “You know, the bill didn’t become law until the end of June, and we’re just into November now. There’s going to be bumps. There’s going to be hiccups. That’s to be expected. But the folks here are committed to doing right by New Mexicans, right by the consumers, right by the people who want to work in the industry, and that’s all you can ask for.”

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

(10) comments

Chris Mechels

Blair is an effective political operative. Look for him to show up on MLG's campaign staff. Victor Reyes has NO credentials supporting his appointment as Deputy at RLD, outside of his service on MLG's staff. The Dictator does what amuses her, with no thought of serving NM. It's all about HER and her manic dreams. We MUST modify the Phera Act, which created a Dictator.

paul pacheco

It will be so refreshing to see the election results in 2022 and hopefully a new governor (Dow or Ronchetti) will bring in a new group of sensible people to make New Mexico better for all the citizens! As for Mr. Blair? He got squeezed out! That’s show-biz and politics! As the saying goes in politics and life, “Cheerio my good man!”

LeRoy Sanchez

Dow or WRONGcetti? WTF?

Richard Reinders

Kind of off subject I can't find article on State Engineer resigning, the state has had a windfall of revenue yet no money went his way to hire or replace vacancy positions.

Francisco Carbajal

Senor Richard, apparently, the Santa Fe New Mexican did not think it was a priority, especially, when we are in a serious drought conditions in Northern and all parts of NM. However, the Journal North found it to be a worthy news item. Thanks for sharing.

Richard Reinders

Maybe too many resignations in one week to cover.

Prince Michael Jauregui

Perhaps, Cheech & Chong are available? Dave's not here, man.

Kirk Holmes

[beam] Dave? Dave who? Good one Prince!

Francisco Carbajal

Definitely, Mr. John Blair was being very kind in his words about his resignation and not bashing the Governor for letting him go. On the same note, it does not surprise me on how Governor Grisham-Lujan can claim that she is fair, not bias, and truthful about how she selects political appointment's during her tenure as the Governor of the State of New Mexico. For example, the Superintendent of the Regulations and Licensing Department is not a Cabinet Secretary position and I am glad it is not! Yet, a former State Senator Linda Trujillo was appointed by the Governor to manage it like if it was. And yes, Superintendent Trujillo shady character and integrity is questionable and she knows it. The sad part of this political monster of the governor's appointee's regardless if they are part of the executive branch of the governor's office or not is "the playing of politics with people's lives" will continue with wrongdoing behavior, contempt, arrogance, pride, ego, temptation, and malice each day. Governor Grisham-Lujan is not immune from this type of deceit behavioral and deserves no honorable credit at this time.

Richard Reinders

NM loses a qualified person and is replaced someone that comes with no law degree or regulatory experience that was mentioned looking at Reyes own political website shows no educational background in this area. No disrespect towards Reyes I don't know him or his qualifications this is why NM remains in last place, because most of the top positions get filled by political favor rather than qualification. Maybe Reyes or the paper could list his qualifications. Remember Workforce solutions was scammed for $100 million dollars before they woke up, and who knows how much we lost due to management of other State depts. not following purchasing protocols and taking the no bids, this is what mismanagement cost the tax payers millions and millions. A little off subject, this is also why the spending of New Federal money needs to go through the House and not an open check book for the Gov.

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