City Council Work Session Recap for March 28, 2022
The Las Cruces City Council was updated at its Monday, March 28, 2022, work session on the start of the adult-use cannabis industry, which begins in New Mexico on Friday, April 1, 2022.
New Mexico will become the 17th state to legally allow recreational marijuana to be produced, sold, and used by adults 21-years old and older. City Council was told Monday that 72 applications for cannabis licenses have been initiated with the state of New Mexico’s Cannabis Control Division, who will regulate the state’s new industry.
In Las Cruces, current registrations include 13 producers, four microbusinesses, one manufacturer, one courier, three for medical sales, and 18 for recreational sales.
City staff members also shared with City Council there hasn’t been any concentration of business registration applications for any area where adult-use cannabis will be available. Zoning conditions for adult-use cannabis sales and uses will include that sales and uses will not be allowed within 300 feet from any school or daycare center; consumption will be restricted to indoor use only; a cannabis retailer or microbusiness must operate at least 300 feet from any single-family residential zone and can be no closer than 300 feet from each other; and cannabis microbusinesses in the city’s EE (Equestrian Estate) and REM (Single-Family Residential Estate Mobile) zoning districts will be required to apply for Special Use Permits to operate. Further, microbusinesses in the EE and REM districts are limited to 200 mature plants or less, must grow them on-site where permitted, and all plants must be in a fully enclosed accessory building that is at least 100 feet from any residences.
Any distance deviations to these regulations will require a Special Use Permit or Variance depending upon the type of deviation.
Las Cruces police emphasized that motorists driving under the influence of cannabis will still be illegal. Smoking cannabis in public will be punishable by a $50 fine; any possession on school property or at a daycare will be a misdemeanor, regardless of the age of the offender. Public possession of 2 to 8 ounces of cannabis will be a misdemeanor and possession of more than 8 ounces will continue to be a felony. Underage possession of cannabis will carry four hours of community service or drug education.
The City has moved swiftly to establish a regulatory framework that will allow the adult-use cannabis industry to thrive while also providing necessary health and safety protections for residents.
Additionally, City Council reviewed the preliminary proposed budget of $123,335,646 for City government’s 2023 fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2022. The proposed budget is a 4 percent increase from the City’s revised budget for the current 2022 fiscal year.
The proposed Fiscal Year 2023 budget includes 3.5 percent salary increases for unrepresented, non-union City employees, a .5 percent increase in state Public Employee Retirement Association benefits, and a 4 percent increase in healthcare and dental benefits for employees. The budget also will include the establishment of “Lift Up Las Cruces,” a multi-departmental effort of the City to combine resources to improve neighborhoods one at a time. “Lift Up Las Cruces” identifies needs or concerns within a neighborhood and will allow the City to focus the resources in one place to make a larger impact.
Further development of the budget will again be a focus at City Council’s April 25 work session. A public hearing on the proposed budget will be conducted May 4 and City Council could adopt the budget during its May 16, 2022, meeting.
Also, at Monday’s work session, representatives of the Alliance for Regional Military Support provided City Council with a quarterly update of recent activities in support of the City and White Sands Missile Range.