Santa Fe County Adopts Cannabis Zoning

Ordinance has provision for more control in traditional communities

With a month left before New Mexico starts processing applications from cannabis producers, the Santa Fe Board of County Commissioners unanimously passed an ordinance Friday afternoon detailing zoning regulations for producers, retailers and consumers.

Commissioners debated for about four hours, spurred by public input from local farmers.

Serafina Lombardi, who told the board she works with the New Mexico Acequia Association and comes from a long line of subsistence farmers in Chimayó, said she believed that the rules outlined in the first staff proposal were too restrictive.

The Planning Commission passed the proposed ordinance on July 15, handing it off to the county commissioners. It included a provision that limited cannabis producers who grow outdoors to the same zoning areas as dairy farms, which are allowed only in agricultural, ranching and rural zones. See the zoning map here.

Lombardi said that restriction would create a high barrier to entry and exclude many traditional communities, adding that the proposed ordinance would leave “only those who can afford to build indoor grow facilities or buy up our precious rural landscape as the ones who can enter this new industry.” The county’s “traditional community” zoning applies to areas such as Nambé, Cerrillos and La Cienega.

After a short recess, county staff came back with a new draft that expanded the territory where growing cannabis outdoors would be allowed and outlined how community-specific rules could be developed and adopted.

Shaffer said individual communities can choose to go through what’s called the community district overlay process to get regional input and opt in or out of particular zoning regulations.

The ordinance allows commercial cannabis to be grown outdoors as a “permitted use” in all agricultural, ranching and rural zoning districts and a “conditional use” in rural fringe, rural residential, residential fringe and traditional community zoning districts.

In conditional use areas, producers will have to submit permit applications to the county with site plans that address landscaping and other relevant details and go in front of a hearing officer and the Planning Commission. In permitted use areas, on the other hand, producers will get administrative approval on their applications.

Some commissioners expressed concern that the adopted rules were not ready.

“I’m just struggling with this. I don’t want to be too loose and I don’t want to be too tight,” Commissioner Anna Hansen said. “I want to make it easy for the micro-grower, and I don’t know if we’re doing that by what we have just done…so I’m just struggling.”

The first staff proposal had also aimed to limit cannabis for personal use to indoor growing only, but the Planning Commission struck that provision.

The ordinance mandates that there be at least 200 feet of separation between cannabis retailers and 300 feet between retailers and schools. Smoking cannabis is only permitted in consumption areas—buildings that don’t allow smoke to infiltrate other indoor public places and are restricted to people 21 and older.

County rules apply to the unincorporated areas only.

The Santa Fe City Council had asked for public comment at a meeting Wednesday ahead of releasing its own draft zoning rules, but technical trouble stalled that until Monday, Aug. 2 at 7 pm.

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