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Doña Ana County Continues To Review Proposed Cannabis Regulation

Doña Ana County

Proposed cannabis regulations continue to be discussed at the county level— with the Doña Ana County Board of Commissioners recently electing to table a vote on an amendment to the Unified Development Code until December 14.

The amendment seeks to provide guidance on distance requirements, hours of operation and additional zoning restrictions for cannabis establishments. New regulation is being prompted by the legalization of adult-use cannabis on the state level, allowing the county to set time, place and manner restrictions.

While the Doña Ana County Planning and Zoning Commission voted to send their proposed recommendations forward in October, select members on the county board of commissioners say more time is needed to address concerns from cannabis stakeholders.

County commissioners like Susana Chaparro— she's asking for more time to review zoning restrictions.

"I'm sure we can make amendments, but I'd really like to make this really work for as many people as we can from the beginning, instead of changing the zoning in six months, and I don't think that's fair,” Chaparro said.

One concern voiced at the meeting—what will be allowed in neighborhood edge T3 zones. County Community Development Director Christina Ainsworth says under the proposed amendment cannabis microbusinesses will be allowed.

“In the T3, what is allowed if you're assessed as agriculture, or what's being proposed to be allowed, is a microbusiness which is a maximum of 200 plants,” Ainsworth said.  “If you're going above 200 plants that's defined as cannabis industry and you can go up to 8,000 which is something that we do not feel is appropriate in that zoning district. “

This leaves larger growers unable to utilize land in T3 zones, as Commissioner Manuel Sanchez describes.

“The cannabis industry based off of the zoning is not allowed in T3, but microbusiness is allowed in T3,” Sanchez said. “In terms of the size, they can be as large as they want, but they're still limited on the number of plants that they can grow.”

Despite some in the cannabis community voicing concerns about the proposed amendment, numerous people also expressed the need for quick action. For growers who are seeking to meet the April 1 deadline, the date many dispensaries are slated to open, the lack of regulation is already setting them behind.

Sanchez voiced the need to move quickly on the amendment, stressing to the rest of the commission that changes can continue to be made even after a vote.

“This is a whole new industry,” Sanchez said. “I know as much as we want to get it right from the very, very beginning. I'm trying to be realistic…We can make amendments to these ordinances and make sure that we're benefiting all the people in the county.”

The county is currently in the process of reviewing stakeholder concerns ahead of the December 14 meeting. Those looking to provide public input can contact Albert Casillas via email.

Madison Staten was a Multimedia Reporter for KRWG Public Media from 2020-2022.