My Comments On The Proposed Cannabis Ordinance


As always there is much passion around the subject of legalizing marijuana, based on nearly a century of tragic, violent, black market warfare and social stigma.    The New Mexico legislature followed current trends and legalized “recreational marijuana” last year, and established rules for both personal and commercial cultivation and manufacture of cannabis, for personal consumption and for retail sale and consumption. Local entrepreneurs asked the County to allow them to establish a “cannabis microbusiness” in a residential district, triggering the development of changes in the Development Code to meet the mandates of the new legislation.

Council Chair Sara Scott published an excellent technical review of the new ordinances (02-218 passed in September to regulate the cultivation and manufacture of cannabis, and 02-321, regulating cannabis retail to be heard by the Council Tuesday night Dec. 7) and I won’t repeat that here.  

The clear intent of the legislature in passing this Act was to encourage the growth of the new cannabis industry and eliminate the stigma formerly attached to cannabis.  From past experience I was skeptical of the County’s effort but I have since concluded that the P&Z and staff were thorough and in the main respectful of the legislative mandates.  The P&Z process seems to have greatly improved since the spanking they got from Judge Lidyard and I hope it continues at this level.  I have only one criticism of these ordinances.

I don’t think that the blanket elimination of commercial cannabis from all residential districts can be justified where other home activities little different in “nature, character, and purpose” are allowed, including the personal production of cannabis.  This especially applies to the R-A District where agricultural, home businesses, and retail are all allowed.  In that respect I don’t believe the proposed ordinance meets the spirit of the Act.  

Reasonable restrictions may be placed on cannabis businesses as they are on any home business, but not to the extent that they amount to prohibition. A unique feature of the Act is the creation of the concept of a “Cannabis Microbusiness,” intended to encourage and protect entrepreneurial activities to minimize the otherwise inevitable domination of cannabis production by large scale, well-financed, and out-of-state corporations.  This is the sort of “garage entrepreneurship” that has been a feature of Los Alamos for decades.  The new ordinances unnecessarily prohibit that important avenue of development of the new industry.