New Mexico’s new state law legalizing cannabis allows people to grow their own, but Santa Fe County wants people in its jurisdiction to do it in the most artificial way possible.
One proposed ordinance change introduced by county staff to the County Commission on Tuesday presents a sticky wicket for people who have already planted cannabis seeds in the ground—perfectly legal under the state law that went into effect June 29.
The county wants to limit personal growing to indoors only.
“The production of cannabis creates a strong odor that can create compatibility issues with surrounding uses,” reads a memo to commissioners from the county’s...wait for it...Growth Management Department Director Penny Ellis-Green. “It is, therefore, recommended that indoor producers be required to use industry standard techniques to minimize odorous matter, toxic or noxious matter.”
The proposed ordinance says, “Cannabis cultivation and production for personal use must be conducted inside an enclosed and locked dwelling unit or an appropriate accessory structure (e.g., a controlled-environment agricultural structure).”
But those “industry standard techniques” and required enclosures mean high electricity use for lights rather than relying on New Mexico’s sunny skies. And, the rules are also likely to cause a snag for hundreds of medical cannabis patients who also grow outdoors at home and whose permits to do so under the Department of Health regulations are phasing out given that the Cannabis Regulation Act now allows six plants for any adult and a maximum of 12 plants per home.
Commissioner Anna Hansen questioned Ellis-Green on the proposed limits to personal growing, noting that many county residents live far enough from each other to avoid traveling odors.
“Is this what the state is saying or is this our rules only?” Hansen asked. Ellis-Green answered that it was the county’s own proposal.
“We are a big county and we have a lot of people who live in remote areas who might want to grow something outside. I feel like this is a limitation...I feel like this is too restrictive,” Hansen said. “The last thing I want is for us to send the sheriff out...and say ‘You can’t grow this with your corn.’”
Ellis-Green said the prohibition on home-growing outdoors was intended to treat all land in the county equally with respect to odor. Later, she said the county also considered water use, which she claims is higher for outdoor growing operations.
“Even if you don’t have a neighbor now, you might have a neighbor in the future...We have many small tracts in the county and the idea was to reduce odor,” she said.
Hansen asked for an ordinance revision that would enable people who live on several acres of land to grow for personal use outdoors. “There might be people who just want to have some plants outside and grow it.”
Ellis-Green said staff could also consider a rule instead that the cannabis can’t be within view of a public road or some other provision. (The state DOH program employed similar restrictions.)
Commissioner Anna Hamilton said she was also concerned “that this kind of requirement tends to disadvantage the most disadvantaged people.”
Commissioner Rudy Garcia asked how the county would enforce the provisions and said he had other questions, which he intends to raise at a forthcoming public hearing on the proposals. The county Planning Commission is set to take up the ordinance at a meeting 4 pm Thursday.
Most of the county’s proposed rules apply to cannabis production businesses and would, among other provisions: require a 200-foot separation required between each cannabis retail business; limit hours of operation to the same as alcohol sales as regulated by the state (despite misrepresenting those hours, as amended under a newly passed state law); treat production facilities with the same rules as dairy farms; and treat consumption areas with the same rules as alcohol sales with respect to hours of operation.
Meanwhile, the Santa Fe City Council is also planning to chat this week about cannabis. An item on the agenda for Wednesday’s council meeting poses a series of questions including: What should the process be for conducting stakeholder outreach and community conversations prior to the adoption of new land use regulations for cannabis?