Commercial-scale growers of marijuana have been operating legally in Corrales for years, and at least nine new sites for cannabis businesses are proposed on land east and west of Loma Larga.
Until now, the only legal cannabis grow sites have been those licensed and regulated to produce it for medicinal uses. But that will no longer be the case: the new N.M. Cannabis Regulation Act sets up a process by which “micro-producers” can harvest up to 100 plants to sell for recreational use.
Given the state law, Village officials are being advised they can’t ban such marijuana crops even if they wanted to. So for several months, the controversy in Corrales has been to what extent municipal regulations, or land use zoning, might be imposed to restrict cannabis growing where it would be offensive in residential neighborhoods.
That’s what happened at the Village Council’s special session January 4. On a 5-1 vote, councillors approved an ordinance that “the commercial production, manufacture, sales and distribution of cannabis and cannabis products are prohibited in the A-1 and A-2 zones.”
Perhaps the biggest hang-ups are Corrales’ long-standing land use zone categories that lump agricultural areas and residential areas together. In virtually all parts of Corrales, anywhere you can build and occupy a home, you or your neighbor can grow a crop to sell commercially.
At a special session of the Village Council January 4, councillors had to decide whether to pass an ordinance that allows marijuana cultivation in neighborhoods as long as facilities or activities that might reasonably be considered offensive to nearby residents, such as odors, are at least 300 feet away.
That January 4 special council meeting was held the day after Corrales Comment’s deadline for this issue, so results could not be included here.
Most of the issues involved in the council’s action January 4 can be understood by carefully reading commentaries and letters published in this issue, as well as an article in the December 18 issue explaining measures adopted by the Village of Los Ranchos on the east side of the river.
As of the end of 2021, the N.M. Cannabis Control Division lists the following nine Corrales properties with pending applications to produce cannabis.
• 984 Camino de Lucia, as a “cannabis producer microbusiness;”
• 3577 Loma Larga, as a “cannabis producer,” near the intersection with Sagebrush Drive;
• another permit pending at 3577 Loma Larga as a “cannabis producer;”
• another at 3577 as a “cannabis producer microbusiness;”
• 4484 Corrales Road, near the intersection with East Ella Drive, listed as a “cannabis producer microbusiness;”
• 119 Veronica Court, off Rayo del Sol, also listed as a “cannabis producer microbusiness;”
• 184 Mountain View Lane, off Corrales Road at the north end of the village, where the past executive director of the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, Mike Hamman and family live and farm, listed as a “cannabis producer microbusiness;”
• 1084 West La Entrada, just east of Loma Larga, listed as a pending “cannabis producer microbusiness;” and
• 266 Target Road, just west of Corrales Elementary School, also listed as a pending “producer microbusiness.”
Of the proposed marijuana production locations above, most attention has been directed to the one for 184 Mountain View on property held or managed by Hamman and his stepson, Antonio Olguin.
That’s in part because Hamman said in a Corrales Comment interview last month, and told the mayor and Village Council at their December 18 meeting, that he “had no dog in this fight” over pending Corrales ordinance regulations for cannabis.
After it came out that Hamman’s plans would, in fact, be affected by amendments to Corrales’ cannabis regulations, he submitted the following statement to clarify plans to grow marijuana on the small farm at the end of Mountain View.
“In the interview in the Comment’s last edition I made a statement related to legal cannabis production that ‘I don’t have a dog in that fight’ and I wish to clarify that regarding the difference between my professional role as I retire from MRGCD and my personal situation on our organic farming operation in the north end in zone A-2. The MRGCD has received a number of inquiries regarding use of District water for cannabis production and the response is that this use is consistent with the District’s Water Distribution Policy and that since it will be a legal crop starting in April 2022, District water can be used just as it is for any other agricultural purpose but if any special accommodation for alternative delivery methods other than flood irrigation is required, the operator must first obtain an approved license from the District. So no dog in the fight on that front.
“Regarding my personal situation, my wife and I lease a portion of our land to the organic grower who is our son and he has been struggling to make a decent living selling organic produce through farmers’ markets and other outlets for over four years now. An irrigation well used to drip irrigate a 3,000 square foot high tunnel green house began failing two years ago and in getting a well replacement permit, the State Engineer informed me that it must have a commercial water right for what was being grown and sold at that time so a significant investment was required to purchase and transfer the water right and re-drill the well at a greater depth. In addition, the entire farm/property’s energy use is being offset with solar panels which was also a significant investment.
“Upon passage of the N.M. Cannabis Regulation Act, my son looked into the specific provisions for the microproducer to grow up to 100 plants that appears to work well in the established green house that uses only sunlight for seasonal production and may provide for a young, struggling farmer to supplement the organic vegetable operations as well as help pay for the operating costs as he builds his business.
“My farm duties are taking care of the chickens, the fruit orchard and irrigating the larger field with District water when it’s available, and I personally would not be involved in, or profit from, any of the cannabis production or sales.
“The only reason my name is involved is that the application requires identification of the property owner. The application process is rigorous and no decision has been made as to whether or not this will proceed given the uncertainties of licensing and other factors.
“With that said, we are committed to organic food production and offsetting our carbon footprint with solar power and recycling green matter to improve the soils that, over time, become a netcarbon sink instead of emitter. It’s a small operation but a worthy endeavor that preserves two acres of farmland, provides organically produced food and a potentially sustainable income from sales of agricultural products.
“I apologize for the mis-leading statement but not for my son’s right to pursue this legal option on private property under the requirements of the act and any the Village ordinance may further require.”
Each of the nine cannabis producer applications listed above are identified as either in draft form or “pending applicant action,” as indicated for Hamman’s request.
Why those applications to grow cannabis in Corrales remain pending is not clear. Villagers have been told that the State’s Cannabis Control Division cannot approve such applications until each has gained approval from the municipality involved. But Village Administrator Ron Curry said December 30 his understanding is that the Village cannot act on any municipal permit until the state acts.
In November 2021, the Village Council imposed a three-month moratorium on processing applications to grow cannabis here. 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 a November meeting, all expressing their fear and dislike of commercial cannabis farming in residential Corrales areas. Some mentioned odor, others mentioned crime, some talked about night time 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.”
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 objected to 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 was 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.