LAS CRUCES — A local pharmacy gets another chance to get permission to sell cannabis to adults on its property, despite its proximity to a school, when the Las Cruces City Council considers the matter at an upcoming meeting.
At its Sept. 6 meeting, the council will hear an appeal from Mesilla Valley Pharmacy regarding the April City Planning and Zoning Commission’s decision to deny the pharmacy’s request to sell cannabis products. The council could vote Tuesday to reverse that decision.
The pharmacy, at 227 South Main Street in downtown Las Cruces, had to request a planning and zoning exemption because their pharmacy is right next door to the New America School. According to the city code, cannabis shops must be at least 100 meters away from a school for children under 18.
Despite arguments at the public zoning meeting about the company’s location in a central commercial district and arguments that transactions would be conducted by responsible, trained pharmacists who promised that no one under the age of 21 would be illegally sold cannabis and THC products, the planning and zoning board unanimously requested the company to reduce the minimum buffer distance.
The board instead voted on the side of concerned school officials, residents and city officials. Residents and school officials argued that children attending school would be negatively affected if cannabis sales were allowed, or that allowing sales would set a damaging precedent by undermining the school buffer rule. City officials also advised a denial at the April meeting, telling the schedule and zoning that they believed the request for 100 percent deviation was too extreme and would have too much of an impact on the adjacent school.
New America School Superintendent and Principal Margarita Porter said she opposes the sale of cannabis next door because it is a potential distraction or temptation for their younger students. Porter said 117 of the school’s 175 students are between the ages of 14 and 18 and attend classes during the day. Students older than 18 take lessons after 5.30 p.m.
“(Cannabis has) been something that our kids are so very interested in and intrigued and curious about,” Porter said. “It will be a temptation, it will be, ‘I’m going to hang out here (and) wait to see if someone will help me buy.’ We are concerned about accessibility.”
Porter expressed concern that students may see who is shopping at the pharmacy and thereby learn who to ask to buy cannabis products for them, even though the physical entrance to the pharmacy is out of sight of the school entrance. It is illegal for any adult over 21 to buy cannabis for anyone under 21.
According to the municipality, a derogation cannot be granted purely for the ‘convenience’ of an applicant. Instead, the derogation should be a minimum necessary step “for relief in achieving the stated objective(s) or demonstrable hardship of the applicant.” The hardships do not have to be personal or monetary. They can include physical hardships associated with the property in question, the potential to stimulate neighborhood or city-scale economic development, or partial monetary hardships — such as one that results from strict zoning adherence.
According to an information pack for the city council’s agenda item, the pharmacy justified its hardships on the basis of the last two criteria. The company argued that the cost of moving from their existing space to sell cannabis would be a significant burden and argued that allowing the sale of cannabis would grow their business, create jobs and reduce tax revenues in the country. downtown would increase.
“We have this downtown location and it took a lot of money through bank loans to set this thing up,” said Jeffrey Stewart, chief marketing officer of Mesilla Valley Pharmacy and Pharmtrue — a company that represents the cannabis and CBD side of the drug. company. “With all kinds of money that we’ve already spent here, we’re still working on those loans… We don’t have the ability to get any more loans for a separate location.”
Stewart also said many landowners are hesitant to lease commercial properties to cannabis companies, meaning it would be difficult to find a new location.
Mesilla Valley Pharmacy Manager Joaquin Acosta said the company would take strict security measures to ensure that minors can purchase cannabis there.
In its appeal to the municipality, the pharmacy states that it is open to compromise if the municipality does not want to grant its request in full.
The letter from David Gottlieb, the company’s attorney, said the pharmacy is “willing to restrict recreational (cannabis) sales,” for example, by allowing them only when school is in the evening or at school. weekend isn’t. The letter also suggests that the company could agree to a “total” restriction on recreational sales and instead serve only medical patients.
The council meeting will be held in the council chambers beginning Tuesday, September 6 at 1:00 PM at City Hall, 700 N. Main St. It will also be broadcast live on Comcast cable channel 20 and in high resolution on channel 298. Streamed live on YouTube on YouTube. com/clctv20 and will be available at clctv.com.
Michael McDevitt is a city and county reporter for the Sun-News. He can be reached at 575-202-3205, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MikeMcDTweets on Twitter.