Recreational cannabis will likely boost the local economy in Santa Fe, city officials and business owners say, but there are still plenty of details to sort out as the clock ticks toward the recently passed legalization law kicking in.
One possibility: For months, city councilors have mused about revenues from the fledgling sector becoming a primary funding source for the city's Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
"Because this is a new industry, it could definitely tie into a new sustainable stream of funding for affordable housing," confirms Economic Development Director Rich Brown, telling SFR that the idea is "definitely now up for review," and that cannabis could provide for a sizable chunk of the $3 million annual baseline target for the fund.
But before the city can begin to move that conversation forward, says Brown, there's a whole lot officials still need to know.
In coming months, the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department's new Cannabis Control Division must craft rules for production, marketing, sale and consumption of cannabis, including standards for documentation and health and safety protocols.
While the Legislature's fiscal analysis of the bill says it gives municipalities "some authority" to regulate things such as the permitted density of cannabis establishments, Brown says the city needs clarity.
"Basically, there are three categories or entry points into the cannabis industry," he explains. "That's production, manufacturing and complimentary services. We need to do research into these three areas and decide which one we can go deep in in the City of Santa Fe and whether some activities are more appropriate for us than others."
Brown continues: "With each of these categories there will be separate regulations and impacts, and we need to consider all of them: the citizen impact, tourism impact, environmental and outdoor impact, law enforcement impact, etc."
As one example, officials must consider how much water is used by the typical grow operation to determine how many should be allowed within city limits.
City staff have more questions than answers.
Industry professionals, on the other hand, are ready for the change.
Lyra Barron co-founded the local medical dispensary Fruit of the Earth Organics with her son, Jaum. She anticipates the legalization of recreational cannabis will bring more cash and jobs into the local economy as well as additional tax revenues the city could put to use in positive community programs.
Barron tells SFR her company is planning to add recreational marijuana to its offerings and expects it will result in a significant uptick in business. Keeping up with demand will likely be the greatest challenge.
"We have already been preparing additional facilities to accommodate the growing and processing of even more cannabis flowers and products," she tells SFR. She also envisions creating a community consumption area where visitors will be able to enjoy live music and events.
Fruit of the Earth grows its own product on an outdoor organic farm, and Barron says the company will continue to ensure the highest quality standards for products sold to both medical and recreational customers.
"I'm committed to it as a medicinal plant, and whether people have a medical card or not I will still always hire the most knowledgeable staff I can," she says. "We train and educate our staff in the medicinal properties and give all of our customers extensive consultations as needed, and that will continue."