County Commission will consider cannabis ordinance during Aug. 17 meeting

Measure would go into effect immediately if it is approved

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • The County Commission will meet at at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 17 at the County Administration Building, 100 S. Oliver Drive in Aztec.
  • If the commission passes the ordinance, it would apply only to unincorporated areas of the county.
  • The measure would not apply to the personal cultivation and use of cannabis.

FARMINGTON — San Juan County commissioners will meet this week to consider a measure designed to regulate the sale, consumption and production of marijuana.

The ordinance was drafted after the New Mexico Legislature passed the Cannabis Regulation Act and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the bill earlier this year. The measure legalized recreational marijuana in the state, albeit with numerous restrictions.

The ordinance San Juan County commissioners will consider during their meeting at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 17 at the County Administration Building, 100 S. Oliver Drive in Aztec, would establish regulations for where and when recreational marijuana-related businesses could operate, where their products could be consumed, permitting requirements for cannabis-related businesses, how the law would be enforced, and penalties for violating the law, among other matters.

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The measure includes an emergency clause that would allow it to take effect immediately. It would not apply to the personal cultivation and use of cannabis.

San Juan County spokesman Devin Neeley said most counties in the state likely are in the process of drafting and/or adopting ordinances to deal with recreational marijuana within their borders.

San Juan County's proposed marijuana ordinance was drafted after the New Mexico Legislature passed the Cannabis Regulation Act and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the bill earlier this year.

"We're all on the same timeline," he said, adding that his understanding is that the county's ordinance is something it came up with on its own, rather than modeling it after a measure passed by another jurisdiction.

If the commission passes the ordinance, it would apply only to unincorporated areas of the county, leaving municipalities free to adopt their own set of regulations on the issue. The City of Farmington is in the process of doing that now, and Neeley said he would guess that county officials consulted with Farmington officials about areas of common concern when they were drafting the county ordinance.

"We work closely with the City of Farmington on many things," he said. "I don't know for a fact that we did that, but I would anticipate that we had those conversations with cities and with other counties around the state."

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An ordinance regulating the sale, consumption and production of marijuana in San Juan County under the state's Cannabis Regulation Act will be heard this week by county commissioners.

Neeley said there is no way to tell how much of a presence the recreational pot industry will have in San Juan County, adding that county officials are concerned only with regulating the industry and enforcing the ordinances it passes. He also declined to speculate on how much of a tax revenue boost the county might see with recreational marijuana sales.

"That's all we have to say on the passage of recreational marijuana," he said.

Outlining the specifics

The proposed ordinance would prohibit any cannabis establishment from opening within 1,000 feet of a residence, church, library, community center, cultural center, public park or government facility and within 300 feet of any school or day care center. Cannabis retailers would be allowed to operate only between the hours of 7 a.m. and midnight daily, and sales from mobile, portable or temporary units, or drive-thru windows would be prohibited.

Marijuana-related businesses in San Juan County would be required to obtain an annual permit under the terms of a measure being considered by the County Commission.

The smoking of cannabis products in a public place would be prohibited except when and where it is permitted by state law. The ordinance would provide for the establishment of cannabis consumption areas inside cannabis retailers if it is a designated smoking area or if it is in a stand-alone building from which smoke does not infiltrate other indoor workplaces. Access to those spaces would be limited to people age 21 or older.

Anyone engaged in commercial cannabis activities in the county would be required to obtain a cannabis establishment permit at a cost of $250 for the initial permit and $100 for each annual renewal. Permits will not be issued for mobile, temporary or portable buildings or buildings with a drive-thru component.

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Violations of the ordinance can lead to a maximum of $300 for each offense.

Existing medical marijuana businesses in the county would not be required to comply with the aforementioned location requirements. But they would be required to submit an application for a cannabis establishment permit within 90 days of passage of the ordinance.

Also during this week's meeting, commissioners will consider giving final approval to a resolution that would place a question asking county voters to approve a 1/16th of 1% increase to the gross receipts tax on the November ballot. The additional revenue raised by the measure, if it passes, would be devoted to emergency communications, and emergency medical and behavior health services.

Commissioners also will hear a report from Four Corners Economic Development CEO Arvin Trujillo and consultant Chris Hunter on economic development efforts in the county.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.