The No Zone

City of Santa Fe waiting to issue zoning approval for prospective cannabis producers

It’s been about three weeks since the state began accepting cannabis producer license applications under the new legalization scheme, and prospective producers in Santa Fe are stuck in a waiting game with the city.

One of the requirements of the state’s license application is “a copy of the current and valid zoning approval” for the municipality in which someone wishes to grow cannabis. Said another way, you need a permission slip of sorts from the city where you want to set up shop.

Santa Fe doesn’t yet have a zoning ordinance for adult-use cannabis businesses—the City Council is expected to vote one up or down on Sept. 29—but has the option of issuing approvals under the rules established for the state’s medical cannabis program.

“Until other cannabis zoning laws go into place, the existing zoning would be what a business would need to get approval under,” state Regulation and Licensing Department (RLD) spokeswoman Heather Brewer says.

But the city is choosing not to give prospective producers approval until the new ordinance passes.

“We have had several inquiries,” Noah Berke, planning manager at the city Land Use Department, writes in an email to SFR. “We have not issued zoning letters for producers since the law passed…We have encouraged people who are requesting these zoning letters to wait until the Governing Body passes the new changes to the land use code.”

City spokesman Dave Herndon says the city is waiting because “business owners would be subject to regulations that haven’t been determined yet.”

As of Sept. 3, RLD had 1,222 in-progress applications and 36 complete submissions.

Brewer says any applications submitted by people in Santa Fe would presumably be in progress and not yet submitted because they’d be missing the zoning approval, but she couldn’t say by publication time whether any of the applications actually came from Santa Fe.

The Planning Commission recommended adoption of the zoning ordinance—which would allow so-called microbusinesses to operate in several commercial zones that exclude larger producers and require 400 feet between retail businesses, among other proposed rules—at the beginning of this month. It’s waiting on approval from the City Council and is scheduled for a public hearing and potential vote on Sept. 29.

Of New Mexico’s five largest cities by population, four already have zoning regulations in place for the recreational cannabis industry, including Roswell, which clocks in as the fifth largest city and made the change last month. Albuquerque had already done so and Las Cruces adopted its rules earlier this month. Rio Rancho passed a zoning and business license ordinance on Aug. 26.

Santa Fe, the fourth largest, has yet to adopt rules. Santa Fe County adopted its rules July 30.

Editor’s note: Berke wrote a Letter to the Editor challenging SFR’s reporting on this topic. You can read it here.

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