Aztec moves forward on medical marijuana ordinance

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
An ordinance to regulate the locations where future medical marijuana dispensaries could be allowed to do business was discussed by the Aztec City Commission. No such businesses currently operate in Aztec.

AZTEC — While the state legalized medical marijuana in 2007, the city of Aztec has never had an ordinance in place detailing where medical marijuana dispensaries can be located.

The Aztec City Commission took the first steps to change that Tuesday evening in a 4-0 vote.

Commissioner Sherri Sipe expressed some reservations based on how easy it is for people to get medical marijuana cards. Ultimately she voted in favor of publishing public notice informing residents of the city’s intent to adopt an ordinance.

The Tuesday evening vote does not establish an ordinance. The final vote on adopting an ordinance will come at a future commission meeting after residents have had time to comment on the proposed measure.

If passed, medical marijuana dispensaries would face similar restrictions to businesses that sell alcohol. This means a dispensary could not be located next to a church, daycare or school. Dispensaries will only be allowed in commercial and manufacturing districts.

State allows medical marijuana to be used for 21 conditions

According to the New Mexico Department of Health, there are 21 conditions that qualify for medical marijuana. These 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.

There are currently organizations in Aztec that assist patients in obtaining medical marijuana cards.

Commission views ordinance as strictly a zoning measure

While Sipe’s reservations were about medical marijuana, the commission viewed the ordinance strictly as a zoning measure. The city attorney assured commissioners that medical marijuana dispensaries must meet stringent state requirements.

City Planner Steven Saavedra said without the ordinance in place future dispensaries would be required to receive a conditional use permit from the City Commission.

“I personally believe this should be codified rather than conditional use,” said City Commissioner Mark Lewis.

There are currently medical marijuana dispensaries in Farmington. The city of Farmington passed an ordinance detailing where medical marijuana dispensaries can be located in 2011 after several months of debate. The debate began when a medical marijuana dispensary requested permits in late December 2010 to open a location in Farmington.

Mayor Victor Snover said he has been a proponent of creating an ordinance for medical marijuana dispensaries for several months, but was waiting for the city to hire an attorney before the ordinance was taken to the commission.

However, Sipe said she was surprised the ordinance was on the agenda and she felt it would have been beneficial to have more information.

“I don’t like being caught off guard by something like this,” she said.

Commissioner Rosalyn Fry said she was surprised the city did not already have an ordinance in place.

Snover emphasized that medical marijuana is legal and all Aztec is considering is a zoning ordinance so the city can be prepared if a dispensary wants to locate in Aztec.

“We’re not being overly progressive with this,” he said.

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