New Mexico Local Governments Face ‘Huge’ Cannabis Regulatory Task | Local News



The next step in the legalized deployment of cannabis in New Mexico will likely come at city council and county commission meetings statewide, when local governments will have to decide how – and where – retailers can operate.

Some cities, including Albuquerque, are already embroiled in debates over the location of these stores. Others, like Santa Fe and Santa Fe County, are just beginning these discussions.

“These are huge conversations, and we’re just getting started because the state is making the rules as we speak, and we need to understand what that means for Santa Fe and what we want,” said City Councilor Carol Romero-Wirth. mentionned.

“There are conversations about density,†she said. “Where do you put these stores? How much do you put in? Where can you consume cannabis? What should the rules be if you don’t follow the rules? It’s enormous. “

Linda Trujillo, superintendent of the state’s regulatory and licensing department, recently sent a letter to New Mexico counties and the New Mexico Municipal League urging local communities to start addressing business rules of recreational cannabis by September 1.

If a city or county fails to make rules before the state begins issuing licenses, it cannot ask companies to relocate, the letter said.

According to Santa Fe County spokesperson Carmelina Hart, county officials are in the process of developing prescriptions for recreational cannabis.

The city is further behind.

The Planning Commission policy committee will soon begin meeting to discuss the matter, spokesman Dave Herndon said. But it was not clear when the committee would start to meet or how the meetings would take shape.

The Department of Regulation and Licensing is scheduled to hold a public hearing on Tuesday – when recreational use becomes legal for adults 21 and older – to gather comments on proposed regulations for cannabis producers. A set of proposed rules for retailers is expected to be released shortly.

Councilor Michael Garcia said he was frustrated the city had not made regulating cannabis a priority and predicted that city council would approve the regulation by the 11th hour.

“This will be a game-changing industry,†Garcia said. “We want to make sure that when we implement this new industry in this community, we do it with a forward-looking vision and ultimately try to address the concerns of the community. ”

Councilor Roman “Tiger” Abeyta said the city does not have to reinvent the zoning wheel.

“We have a good idea of ​​where different uses are appropriate or not,†Abeyta said.

As Santa Fe drags its feet, Albuquerque, expected to be the state’s largest market for commercial cannabis, recently approved changes to zoning codes to accommodate businesses.

After a six-hour meeting on June 17, Albuquerque city council declined a series of proposals from Mayor Tim Keller’s office for a leaner approach.

Council rejected all but one of the mayor’s proposals, including banning retailers from the “Main Street” corridors, which include bustling Central Avenue, and banning stores within 1,000 feet of each other. others or any other “adult” company.

The council also rejected the ban on shops within 100 meters of religious institutions and rules prohibiting customers and deliveries to shops between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

The council agreed to require a distance of 600 feet between cannabis stores, unless an exemption is approved by a public process, and to allow the cultivation and manufacture of cannabis within 300 feet of a residential area, a school or a daycare.

If the Albuquerque process is any indication, said Chris Rivera, Santa Fe city councilor, Santa Fe may not meet the September 1 target date.

Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber could not be reached for comment on cannabis rules.

Romero-Wirth said the city is able to model its rules on those of other municipalities that have legalized marijuana.

“The good news is that we are not the first and we are not the last,” she said. “There is a lot of experience ahead of us, and we are always able to benefit from it.”

She noted that there are issues the city will have to decide that may not be at the forefront of residents’ concerns, such as drug testing for city employees.

“It’s not just for the city,†Romero-Wirth added. “All businesses are going to have this problem. … There are many layers that we will have to struggle with.

Abeyta said he was more concerned about how legalization would affect children and teens in Santa Fe.

As CFO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Fe / Del Norte, Abeyta said he would like to see funding for marijuana education, as opposed to prevention programs.

He and Rivera, who both represent southerners, have also raised concerns about where cannabis retailers will place their displays.

Advisers said they were concerned cannabis companies would congregate in their southwestern district, where land prices are generally cheaper. The two said they hoped to avoid oversaturation.

Councilor Jamie Cassutt is also concerned about where cannabis businesses will be allowed to open. She said she wonders if her neighborhood, which includes a central stretch of Cerrillos Road, will see more stores while the historic neighborhoods on the north and east sides of Santa Fe will be considered “untouchable.”

“I would contradict this idea that the historic district should somehow be exempt from something that my neighborhood will not be,†she said.

Garcia, whose neighborhood largely includes downtown residents, is not convinced cannabis companies will saturate the south of the city. Liquor stores and tobacco and vape shops are located across town, he said, and he doesn’t expect cannabis companies to be any different.

What will be interesting, Garcia said, is how businesses are regulated in the downtown area.

Albuquerque has banned cannabis businesses from its Old Town neighborhood for at least a year.

“It’s up to the community to decide and the governing body to make the decisions,†Garcia said. “We have to make sure that we listen to the community and that we develop a fair and just policy. “

Cassutt said Santa Fe should look to other cities and states for crime taking root as cannabis businesses open up.

A 2019 study from the University of Colorado at Denver found that Denver neighborhoods with cannabis dispensaries saw a sharp rise in crime and unrest after Colorado legalized the drug in 2014.

The Denver experience does not mean that major spikes in crime are likely in other places where cannabis is legalized, according to the study.

Still, Cassutt said it would be important to look at law enforcement strategies in Santa Fe.

Time is running out for Cassutt.

“We have to step on it,” she said.


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