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City commissioner says city being proactive by passing measure

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AZTEC — More than a decade after medical marijuana became legal in New Mexico, the city of Aztec is implementing zoning guidelines for medical marijuana dispensaries.

The Aztec City Commission unanimously approved an ordinance Tuesday evening that dictates where medical marijuana dispensaries can be located within the city limits. The ordinance would prevent dispensaries from being located near schools, day-care centers or churches.

Community development director Steven Saavedra said his department did not receive any public comments about the issue.

“I did have a couple citizens call me with concerns that we were doing this,” Commissioner Sherri Sipe said.

She said she explained to the residents that the city was only passing an ordinance regarding locations of the dispensaries as a way of being proactive. Medical marijuana became legal in New Mexico in 2007. The ordinance only applies to medical marijuana.

Without the ordinance in place establishing where the dispensaries can be located, a dispensary would have to apply for a conditional use permit before opening its doors in Aztec.

The New Mexico Department of Health lists 21 conditions that qualify for medical marijuana, and there are currently organizations in Aztec to assist patients hoping to obtain medical marijuana cards. Those conditions include cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy or seizure disorders, certain spinal cord injuries, HIV/AIDS, painful peripheral neuropathy, intractable nausea or vomiting, severe anorexia or cachexia, Hepatitis C if the patient is receiving antiviral treatment, Crohn's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, severe chronic pain, hospice care, inflammatory autoimmune-mediated arthritis, cervical dystonia, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, ulcerative colitis and inclusion body myositis.

While some Aztec residents expressed concerns to Sipe about medical marijuana dispensaries in Aztec, the members of the City Commission viewed the ordinance as a zoning issue.

“It is a zoning issue, and everything that I’ve heard has been (positive),” Mayor Victor Snover said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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