The debate about cannabis growing in Corrales will rage on for at least the next three months. At Tuesday’s village council meeting, Resolution 2139 was passed which included a moratorium to pause the processing of all applications for new cannabis-growing permits for 90 days. Village attorney Randy Autio said, “The idea of the moratorium would be to craft the best law we could with all the data we can gather and the examples that we’ve already been identifying from other states.”
Many villagers spoke at this meeting, all expressing their fear and dislike of commercial cannabis farming in residential Corrales areas. Some mentioned odor, others mentioned crime, some talked about nighttime light pollution, and others loss of property value. Their voices seemed to call out in unison with the same basic plea: “do what you can, councillors, to protect us from this frightening development.”
Autio’s response to these pleas was to mention that villagers have the right to grow cannabis as much as they have the right to live in a place that is protected from the negative aspects of cannabis growing.
He also reminded the council, “We are not an independent state, like an Indian reservation might be, within the United States that can pass its own laws. We are a creature of state law.”
He went on to say, “It may not be a good law, that’s not for me to determine, but it is the law of the land at the present time.”
The resolution was proposed and seconded by the council, and Councillor Stuart Murray chimed in, saying the only problem he had with the moratorium is that 90 days only allowed the council to have three more meetings. He proposed extending the moratorium by five days to allow at least four more meetings.
The council’s slightly awkward process of introducing items for discussion and approving items that will be discussed makes it difficult to efficiently pass any legislation in three meetings.
Councillor Mel Knight suggested making the resolution 120 days, four months instead of three, giving the council much needed time to draft an ordinance.
Mayor Jo Anne Roake quickly spoke up, saying the village had consulted with an unnamed state attorney working for the municipal league. The mayor said of this person, “his concept is that 90 days is 60 days too long.” She then referred to attorney Autio to “explain the risk of waiting longer” to the councillors.
Councillor Kevin Lucero raised his hand first, however. He began by reprimanding the state’s cannabis legislation, saying, “the state said it itself, they’re driving the car as they are building it. We are trying to meet some crazy deadlines, trying to put some legislation in place that […] fulfills the will of our constituents and protects this village.” He said he is in favor of extending the period to 120 days.
Councillor Zachary Burkett agreed, explaining “there is zero point in doing a moratorium if we’re going to do it in such a short period that we can’t improve something during that moratorium.” Councillor Burkett also noted that the areas in discussion are only those zoned A1 and A2, not Corrales’ commercial district. He argued that permits for the commercial areas would still be considered and might be granted during the moratorium, thus further protecting the village from the risk of lawsuit.
Attorney Autio referenced the mayor’s state attorney, saying, “the municipal league also happens to be our ensurer,” implying that the council needs to take its opinion seriously. He went on to emphasize the mainly financial risks from potential lawsuits the village might take if they make a moratorium too long.
After Resolution 2139 passed, the councillors moved on the the next item which was reinstating Ordinance 18-02. This would effectively ban cannabis growing in zones A1 and A2. The mayor, who occasionally appeared agitated during the meeting, seemed to strongarm a motion to table this discussion.
The vote to table came down to a tie, with Councillors Burkett, Lucero and Murray dissenting. Mayor Roake broke the tie with a vote to table.
Many will be watching to see if fear of a lawsuit from a small, silent group will continue to keep Village Council from passing legislation that reflects the will of the village.