On December 14, at their final meeting of the year, the Corrales Village Council scheduled crucial votes for a special session January 4 on possible new regulations on growing marijuana commercially. As a framework for their discussion, it is helpful to look to Corrales’ southern neighbors who are facing similar challenges, and are a few steps ahead. The Village of Los Ranchos has passed an ordinance that seems to reflect the views of villagers while also attempting to adhere to the rulings set forth in the 178-page House Bill 2, the New Mexico Cannabis Regulation Act (NMCRA).
Like Corrales, Los Ranchos originally adopted an ordinance outlawing the growing of cannabis within their village. Ordinance No. 273, which prohibited “the cultivation, manufacture, and distribution of cannabis and cannabis-derived products in the Village,” was adopted in March of 2021. After New Mexico passed its Cannabis Regulation Act, the governing body of Los Ranchos, called the board of trustees, began collecting and hearing data from residents, as well as legal and cannabis experts in August of this year.
According to Tiffany Justice, planning and zoning director in Los Ranchos, “The discussion was how can we abide by the CRA and still provide protection for Los Ranchos residents, since most of our zoning is agricultural/residential.” State Senate District 10 (Los Ranchos) Senator Katy Duhigg, who helped write the NMCRA, was present at the Board of Trustees meeting on October 6, along with Los Ranchos Attorney Nann Winter. Corrales Attorney Randy Autio was on the agenda for this meeting, but was not in attendance.
At this meeting, after Attorney Winter made a thorough presentation explaining the NMCRA, Director of Planning and Zoning Justice gave the trustees three options reflecting varying levels of regulation, from total prohibition of cannabis to total, if regulated, allowance. The board preferred the middle option, and after another month of tweaking, Ordinance 282 was finalized, then adopted on November 10, which repealed Ordinance 273.
This ordinance states that in all agricultural/residential areas of Los Ranchos, “The cultivation, intentional growth, manufacture, and distribution of cannabis and cannabis products, except for homegrown or homemade cannabis, are prohibited.” It is only in the Los Ranchos commercial/retail zone that cannabis may be cultivated, manufactured or sold, with many qualifications and limits. The Village Center Zone is exempt from this allowance and cannabis is prohibited there as well as in the agricultural/commercial zone.
Corrales councillors who fear lawsuits from the State could be emboldened by Los Ranchos’ actions, and perhaps take courage. As Los Ranchos resident Mel Eaves said at one of the board meetings, “If the Village has to protect villagers against the State… then the Village ought to do that.”