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Council sets hearing on cannabis regulations

Roswell City Councilor Jason Perry gives some statistics about youth and marijuana use Thursday evening at a special meeting of the Roswell City Council. The council voted 7-2 to conduct a public hearing at its Aug. 12 meeting on new city code regarding cannabis. (Juno Ogle Photo)

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The Roswell City Council will conduct a public hearing on Aug. 12 on a revised proposed ordinance that would regulate cannabis largely through zoning of where it can be sold, commercially grown and processed and used on-site.

The main revisions to the proposed ordinance include use of floating zone districts and adding the Roswell Air Center to areas where cannabis would be prohibited. The revised ordinance should be on the city’s website for public viewing by the end of the day Friday, City Manager Joe Neeb said.

The council voted 7-2 in a special meeting Thursday to advertise and conduct the public hearing, less than an hour after the council’s Legal Committee gave its unanimous recommendation to do so.

Voting in favor of the public hearing were Councilors Barry Foster, Margaret Kennard, Jason Perry, Judy Stubbs, Jacob Roebuck, Jeanine Best and Juan Oropesa. Councilors Angela Moore and Savino Sanchez were the no votes.

New Mexico’s Cannabis Regulation Act signed into law earlier this year provides that local jurisdictions can adopt “time, place and manner” rules regulating cannabis, so long as they do not conflict with the state provisions.

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“In other words we can limit the number of locations within a given geographic area, the number of licenses and the operating times consistent with neighborhood uses,” Kevin Maevers, community development director for the city, told the council.

The city, as are many local governments in New Mexico, is racing to put an ordinance in place by Sept. 1, which is when the state begins accepting and processing licenses for cannabis producers. Mayor Dennis Kintigh, who was not at Thursday’s meeting due to a prior commitment, earlier told the Roswell Daily Record it’s believed that any local restrictions cannot be enacted retroactively on state-approved permits.

Maevers told the council that the complete ordinance will be a multi-phase process and it was important to get the framework in place before the state begins approving permits.

“The intent of this ordinance, the one you have in front of you right now, is to establish that general framework for the regulation. We will be adopting additional regulations as time goes on,” he said, noting the state has not even been able to provide answers to many questions from local governments yet.

Eleven articles in the prosed code are actually empty of any provisions at this point in preparation for what might be needed in the future.

“We have to be prepared for every eventuality so you can expect that we will be talking about cannabis at every meeting for the foreseeable future,” he said.

The version of the ordinance given to councilors Thursday mostly made minor changes in wording throughout, including revised descriptions of the three districts where cannabis-related businesses and special events would be prohibited — the Downtown Historic District, the Downtown Business District and the Metropolitan Redevelopment Area, or the Historic Railroad District.

The revisions also added the Roswell Air Center as a prohibited area to comply with Federal Aviation Administration rules and regulations.

A second major revision to the ordinance defines a floating zone district, which would be a new type of zoning for the city, and specifies the city’s Community Commercial Zone and Heavy Industrial Zone as commercial and industrial cannabis floating zones.

The floating zones are different from overlay zones, which the city has used, Maevers said.

“The biggest difference between a floating zone and an overlay zone is the way it’s driven,” Maevers said. “An overlay zone is driven by the city council. You put it in place before the fact,” he said.

With a floating zone, the city determines the framework or requirements, but it is up to a developer or applicant to prove a property meets the regulations, such as being the proper distance away from a church or school.

“One of the upshots is that every cannabis establishment will effectively require a zoning change, because the zone floats, in theory, until the applicant says ‘Here’s my parcel,’” City Attorney Parker Patterson said.

If the applicant can show the location meets all the requirements, the full council will consider the zone change for that specific lot, Patterson said.

Julianna Halvorson, board president for MainStreet Roswell, spoke during the public comment section of the meeting. The downtown organization is surveying its 90 members, and of 30 replies so far, she said, 51% were in favor of cannabis sales in Roswell.

“I think a lot of them, they’re looking at the financial impact. They want to make money off of it,” she said.

But she said she thought many didn’t realize there is at this point only one bank in the entire state that will fund cannabis businesses.

“They can’t bank anywhere locally so far at this point,” she said.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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