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Industry officials question the fairness of some restrictions
The draft regulations for recreational marijuana businesses in Chaves County restrict most types of industrial businesses to specific zones along major highways and roads and require them to stay away from places where children and the community congregate, as well as operate and operate behind fences covered windows.
District officials have raised public safety concerns in previous meetings, but a representative from a state industrial group says some of the regulations seem unreasonable to him and likely re-stigmatize a substance that has been legalized.
“When you read this, it seems like they think people are buying cannabis and then doing whatever cannabis equivalent is shooting down an alley,” said Ben Lewinger, executive director of the New Mexico Cannabis Chamber of Commerce based in Albuquerque that has Chaves County members.
“In reality, it’s more like people go to a grocery store or a Walgreens or a drugstore and buy what they want and then take it home.”
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The Chaves County Planning and Zoning Department worked with the county legal team to draft the ordinance and released the latest revision on Thursday morning, two weeks before the August 19th public hearing.
Louis Jaramillo, director of planning and zoning, said the county staff also drafted their new cannabis rules after looking at rules developed by other New Mexico counties.
Similar draft ordinances have also been published as supplements to the Roswell-Chaves County’s Extraterritorial Zoning (ETZ) ordinance, which regulates properties within a 2 mile radius of Roswell city limits. The regulations differ on some points in terms of zoning and the distances businesses must be from other types of facilities. They also point out that all cannabis companies must obtain a special use permit.
Jaramillo said the county and ETZ have no existing regulations for medical cannabis companies and are unaware of any cannabis companies operating outside of registered territories, with the exception of commercial growers, also known as producers.
“Cannabis producers were allowed to work in the county’s agricultural residential area, much like dairies and other farms,” Jaramillo said.
The district and ETZ are working to have their regulations passed by September 1st. At that time, the state of New Mexico is expected to begin issuing recreational cannabis producer licenses, legalized by the Cannabis Regulation Act passed by state legislators in March and signed by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham in April. The state has had a legalized medical marijuana industry since 2007.
Other types of permits and licenses for the recreational cannabis industry are expected to be issued after January 2022, and the state will allow commercial sales from around April 2022. Personal use and limited personal cultivation were permitted from June 29th.
The district ordinances contain the following provisions.
• People aged 21 and over are only allowed to smoke, vape or use marijuana for recreational purposes in private indoor spaces or in indoor shops that operate “cannabis consumption areas”. Individuals could have up to six mature and six immature plants.
• Cannabis producers can operate in agricultural and residential areas if they can demonstrate through the New Mexico State Engineer’s Office that they have adequate agricultural water rights.
• Cannabis retailers (which could include both medicinal and non-medicinal cannabis), consumption areas, researchers, educational organizations, and testing laboratories may operate in certain business parks. Manufacturers, extraction and processing companies, and integrated companies – or those that have more than one type of cannabis business – can set up businesses in certain industrial areas. But the facilities must be on major highways and roads. These include US 70, US 82, US 285, US 380 and State Highway 2.
• The commercial and industrial companies must not be within 100 meters of schools or childcare facilities, or 300 meters of churches, community centers, parks, government facilities, adult care centers, or medical facilities. Also, there cannot be more than one retail or consumption area company within a 1 mile radius.
• Certain building codes would also apply – including the need for fences and hidden or opaque windows – and businesses would not be able to operate from homes.
Currently, the county’s regulations also stipulate that retailers and cannabis use areas could be open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Sunday from midnight to 12 noon. However, Jaramillo said the provision could be changed at the public hearing.
He also stated that the 300 foot distances are the maximum allowed under state law. The distances of 1,000 feet and the one business per 1 mile radius have been set as reasonable by county officials and in line with what other counties have set, he said.
The decision to restrict non-producers to major highways and roads follows “the recommendation of the 2016 Comprehensive Master Plan that all commercial and industrial zones be located along the main corridors in Chaves County,” Jaramillo said.
Lewinger of the New Mexico Cannabis Chamber of Commerce said he and perhaps some of the local members plan to comment on the proposed county rules. He said some of them appeared unfair and intended to “re-stigmatize” a substance that is now widely accepted by other nations and states and is likely to become fully legal by federal law in the years to come.
He asked whether other companies selling legal products are subject to the same regulations when they are a mile or 300 meters from public facilities.
He also pointed out the provisions on fences and covered or opaque windows, which indicate unfair treatment.
“What happens behind these windows is completely legal,” said Lewinger. “Are you asking the same for bars, which can have a much more dangerous impact on children and society?”
He added that he thought it would have been a good idea for officials to interview local residents before issuing regulations, as has been the case in some other New Mexico local governments.
“I would say as a state we have to look forward to the time when cannabis is perfectly legal everywhere and not look back,” he said.
The Chaves County Board of Commissioners public hearing on county regulations is scheduled for 9:00 am at the Chaves County Administrative Center at 1 St. Mary’s Place on August 19. The hearing of the ETZ commission on the ETZ regulations is planned for August 17th at 5.30 p.m. at the same place. Comments can also be submitted in writing or by participating in the Facebook livestream of the committee meeting.
The city of Roswell is also considering rules on recreational cannabis, with its public hearing due to take place at the city council meeting on Aug. 12.
New Mexico is now one of the 18 states, two territories and the District of Columbia that have legalized recreational marijuana use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
A report released in June 2021 by MPG Consulting of Denver, Colorado and Ultra Health, the largest medical marijuana company in New Mexico, showed that the total legal and illegal cannabis market in New Mexico was approximately 762.5 million in 2022 And is projected to grow to $ 786.1 million by 2026. Recreational and medical uses, measured in pounds per year, are expected to be roughly the same.
According to the report, the legal market will only occupy about 25% of the market in 2022, but should grow to 99% of the market by 2026, depending on the licensing and licensing rules developed.
Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, extension. 351 or at email@example.com.