LAS CRUCES – A local drugstore was given the go-ahead to sell cannabis to qualified medical patients and adults over 21, despite a neighboring school.
After extensive public comments during Tuesday’s meeting, the Las Cruces City Council voted to grant a near-total exemption request to Mesilla Valley Pharmacy and Pharmtrue, granting it an exemption from the city code to retail cannabis. sell despite falling within a minimum of 300 feet. buffer distance to a school. The New America School is located adjacent to the pharmacy’s 227 South Main Street location.
Pharmtrue is MVP’s partner company that basically represents the cannabis and CBD side of the business. Mesilla Valley Pharmacy already sells and prepares CBD products on site.
The council voted unanimously to approve the derogation request and simultaneously reversed an April decision of the city planning and zoning committee. The 6-0 vote even included Mayor Ken Miyagishima, who was almost always a lone vote against cannabis-related measures for the council.
District 2 Councilor Tessa Abeyta has withdrawn herself from the appeal hearing, as Pharmacy Manager Joaquin Acosta has been appointed to her on the planning and zoning committee. As part of her challenge, the councilor had to leave the meeting while the appeal was being heard.
After the council vote and subsequent raucous applause from those in attendance in support of MVP, Acosta told the Sun-News the result was surprising.
“We really didn’t expect today’s outcome,” Acosta said. “We just hoped to inspire our community to feel what we were feeling, and we really appreciate that they did and that they showed up. I think the city council got the message.”
Trey Howard, MVPs and Pharmtrue’s chief financial officer, presented the company’s argument under oath to the board.
Howard stressed that the section of the pharmacy that would sell cannabis was tucked away in a separate room in a corner of the building. He said there would be multiple layers of security to ensure that the only people receiving cannabis are those who can legally purchase it, as well as security cameras monitoring every inch of the parking lot. He said the pharmacy is already safely distributing controlled substances as part of its existing business model.
After the vote, Howard told the Sun-News he believed that the number of adherents who appeared in the council chamber, some of whom spoke as medicinal cannabis patients themselves or patients consulted about cannabis by pharmacy staff, influenced the council.
Many attendees wore badges to show their support for the pharmacy, which were handed out by their staff ahead of the meeting and advertised on Facebook as redeemable for free CBD at the pharmacy.
Acosta denied criticism that the pharmacy was essentially paying for support, saying they lobbied their own public, but also told the… Sun-News the offer was withdrawn “to triple our lines” and avoid confusion.
Public commentators on both sides trotted out the typical arguments, trying to sell city council members about the medicinal benefits of cannabis or convince them that it contributed to drug addiction or endangered children.
Danny Hartman, an MVP client, said that medical cannabis has helped him with his chronic pain. Although he was eligible for a medical card, Hartman said he wouldn’t have known how to properly use cannabis to treat his condition if he hadn’t had conversations with MVP staff.
“We’re worried that students will be distracted, that they’ll just watch (out of the classroom), they’ll see who goes in and out,” said New America School Superintendent and Principal Margarita Porter. New America primarily serves high school students. “We just want to know that our students are safe.”
“I want you to understand that the New America School students are a very vulnerable population,” said Roberta Stathis, vice president of the school’s board of directors.
Opponents also warned that attributing such an extreme variance could set a precedent that would undermine the school’s buffer for cannabis retail.
Proponents of MVP argued that a pharmacy run by trained professionals was arguably one of the most worthy institutions to qualify for an exemption and that pharmacists were well placed to ensure that people who wanted to maximize its medical benefits , did so safely by compounding the correct doses and making sure it didn’t interact with other prescriptions.
“If we continue to make it harder for the legal industry to succeed, the black market will continue to thrive,” said District 4 City Councilor Johana Bencomo. “If a derogation were allowed, I’m not afraid of setting a precedent, because this is a pharmacy.”
Acosta said Mesilla Valley Pharmacy could begin selling cannabis for adult use in January, pending state approval.
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.