Curry plans to change cannabis law

Although the Curry County Commission should not increase the state-required 300-foot minimum distance between a cannabis business and a school or daycare, the commission may be able to establish a 1,000-foot distance. between a cannabis business and a place of worship.

County Attorney Daniel Macke said the county may have that option because New Mexico’s cannabis law does not mention distance from churches, which may leave the distance issue open to local governments. .

The issue of churches and the minimum distance allowed was raised, among other things, during a committee working session Tuesday on whether the county should keep its current ordinance, enact a new one, or simply follow the guidelines. state requirements.

The idea of ​​repealing the county ordinance and leaving only state requirements in place was discussed at the April 12 commission meeting, but was not resolved.

At the end of Tuesday’s business session, Macke was tasked with drafting a notice of intent to pass a new ordinance to be presented at Tuesday’s commission meeting. The new order would establish the minimum distance of 1,000 feet between cannabis businesses and places of worship, but leave in place the current minimum distances of 300 feet between cannabis businesses and schools or daycares.

Macke was also tasked with drafting a notice of intent to repeal the county’s current ordinance. The repeal is also expected to be introduced on Tuesday.

Pyle said the notice of intent would be followed by the release of both measures and a public hearing before final passage. Pyle said hearings and final passage of the repeal and replacement order could take place at the commission’s scheduled June 14 meeting.

County Sheriff Wesley Waller recommended that the commission pass its own ordinance to regulate cannabis, as it would give local law enforcement more power in enforcing cannabis laws.

County Manager Lance Pyle agreed. Local law enforcement, he said, could act sooner without “having to wait for Santa Fe” to answer law enforcement questions about the cannabis trade.

Macke said, however, the county could be held liable if a business was denied a license because the county’s distance requirement was higher than the state’s.

Since state law does not mention places of worship, he said, that may allow the county to include churches in its ordinance and set its own distancing requirement.

Macke cautioned, however, that the order should not have the effect of making it impossible to start a cannabis business in rural areas of the county, as that would violate state law.

Commissioner Tom Martin has proposed that any new county cannabis ordinance include definitions of “school”, “daycare” and “place of worship”.

Martin asked if a home school could be used as a “school” to establish minimum distancing, and if a family member’s home where children are dropped off daily would be considered a “day care centre”.

Martin also proposed that the distance requirements in the county ordinance for cannabis establishments be comparable to those for alcohol.

Commissioner Robert Sandoval said cannabis should not be considered more harmful than alcohol, citing an old adage that if you get five drunks together they start a fight, but “if you get five potheads together they create a group”.

Commissioner Seth Martin, however, said cannabis and alcohol are not the same, even though both are intoxicants. He pointed out that you can buy alcoholic beverages at a convenience store, but not cannabis products.

The commissioners seemed to agree that the current ordinance had to be repealed before another could replace it.

Commissioner Robert Sandoval said any such order should include “the rational basis” for establishing minimum distances between cannabis businesses and schools, daycares, government buildings or churches.

“It helps me when I defend the order,” he said.