Santa Fe County’s Planning Commission held a meeting July 15, and voted on recommendations for the County Commission to regulate cannabis, as the state moves forward into legalization of recreational pot.
The Planning Commission considered how the county should adapt the Santa Fe County Sustainable Land Development Code (SLDC).
Growth Management Administration Director Penny Ellis-Green presented the Planning Commission with amendments for countywide zoning. She said the state is also drafting regulations on cannabis but are allowing public discussion to take place until the end of August as they open up applications for licensing Sept. 1.
She said the SLDC has existing regulations and the amendments proposed are built from them based on existing medical cannabis regulations, when it comes to personal growing restrictions, separation of retailers, and hours of sales and consumption of cannabis products.
She also brought forth concerns from the public which include odor, security, safety, water use and neighborhood nuisance as it relates to the commercial, medical and recreational parts of the industry.
Ellis-Green said commercial businesses would be required to uphold “industry standard techniques to minimize odor,” by making some operations indoor grow only and outdoor grow operations restricted to certain parts of the district based on zoning.
Cannabis testing and research labs would be zoned the same as “research and development services.” Cannabis manufacturers would be zoned as “food textiles and related products.”
Cannabis producers or micro-producers with indoor growing operations would be zoned as “commercial greenhouses” and outdoor growing operations would be zoned as “dairy farms,” to control the odor.
Cannabis retailers would be zoned the same as stores and shops. She said all of these zoning classifications would be the same as the existing code for medical cannabis.
She said her team recommended two different amendments: restricting growth to indoors only, or allowing both indoor and outdoor growing that is not visible. She also said commissioners could also recommend to delete the restrictions part of the ordinance or come up with another idea.
On the hours of sale and consumption of cannabis or cannabis products, Ellis-Green said when they wrote the draft of the ordinance it was before the state had implemented a new alcohol law allowing sales and consumption on Sundays.
That would ensure that cannabis regulation would be the same as the alcohol regulation both in when they can serve or consume and requiring an age limit of 21, she said.
On separation of retail sales and cannabis consumption sites, her team recommended a separation of at least 200 to 300 feet between cannabis retailers and consumption sites, and schools and day care facilities.
Those restrictions would “prevent an area from becoming solely a cannabis consumption area,” Ellis-Green said.
She also clarified that a “cannabis consumption site” would be like a bar or night club.
She said that if the consumption area is for vaping or smoking, the business would be required to provide a standalone building that has an indoor smoking area and that products like edibles would be allowed to be consumed outside.
After some discussion the Planning Commission voted 6-1 to recommend to the County Commission to remove caps on personal growth, to change in the hours of sale and consumption to match that of the alcohol laws, and to keep a separation of retailers.
The County Commission will be holding a meeting July 30 with a public hearing on the matter. To find more, visit the county website at santafecountynm.gov.