Cannabis shop clears hurdle to open in Mesilla historic district
Planning and Zoning Commission approves one applicant and postpones action on a second
MESILLA - A cannabis dispensary may soon join the mix of restaurants, jewelry stores, souvenir shops and other businesses near Mesilla's historic plaza.
On Monday, the town's Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved its first cannabis business application. The Board of Trustees must grant its confirmation as well but there did not appear to be any issues jeopardizing passage.
Marshall McGinley, a local cattleman and business owner, was granted a municipal license to operate NM Cannabis Cowboy, a retail cannabis shop, in a small retail space on Calle de San Albino, two blocks away from the plaza.
McGinley had previously obtained the required license from New Mexico's Cannabis Control Division, including approval of his plans for security features and cameras at the site, all of which he submitted to the commissioners along with his articles of incorporation and a letter from the property owner endorsing his application.
Commissioners acted swiftly after confirming that McGinley had met all the requirements of the state's Cannabis Regulation Act and the town's cannabis ordinance, which took effect in January.
There was confusion, however, over the procedure since cannabis dispensaries require not one approval but two: One for a license to operate a business in the town, and a second specifically to operate a cannabis business.
Mayor Nora Barraza, who attended part of the meeting, rose to explain that the dual approvals were designed to mimic the process for establishments serving alcohol.
The process went less smoothly for a second cannabis dispensary on the agenda whose application was postponed amidst further confusion about the town's ordinance and the possibility that its proposed location is a few feet too close to McGinley's shop.
Bader Jouda of El Paso applied to operate a dispensary named Cannabis Tropical on Calle de Parian close to the plaza, but Commissioner Davie Salas, participating in the meeting via telephone, balked at approving the application because Jouda is still in the process of seeking a cannabis retail license from the state.
"We probably shouldn't be addressing this, really," Salas remarked.
The ordinance does not clarify whether that certificate must be on file prior to the town approving a license, but the commissioners came down on the side that a state license should be in place first.
Jouda had submitted proof of his submission for the license, but the town's ordinance includes slightly ambiguous language stating that an applicant for a town cannabis business license must show "proof of submittal for a valid state of New Mexico cannabis license," and continues: "After licensure is obtained, a copy of the certificate from the state of New Mexico must be submitted as part of the file."
Salas pointed out a second problem with Cannabis Tropical's application: Its current proposed location might be a hair too close to McGinley's dispensary, which has now won prior approval.
Under the town's ordinance, cannabis establishments must be located at least 300 feet away from each other, the maximum distance municipalities are allowed to require under state law.
The town states that the measurement shall be "from any wall of the two proposed or existing licensed premises," which appears to fall within 300 feet as the crow flies. On foot, Jouda's proposed location is down one block and around a corner from McGinley's location.
The commissioners swiftly came to an agreement that the entire case — including a permit application for an 18- by 24-foot "coming soon" sign to be posted at the business — should be postponed for a future meeting with a request that Jouda appear in person.
The commissioners unanimously voted to table the dual business license applications as well as the sign permit, but did not address a fourth agenda item: Jouda had also requested a town business license to sell non-cannabis smoke shop merchandise and snacks at the same address.
Neither of the two dispensaries would feature a cannabis consumption lounge, meaning consumption of cannabis on the premises would be prohibited.
With planning and zoning's approval, the application for McGinley's dispensary will come before the board of trustees at a subsequent meeting.
While it remains illegal to possess or consume under federal law, cannabis is legal in New Mexico for medical and non-medical use by adults. State-regulated commercial sales went into effect April 1.
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