At the Questa Village Council meeting on Tuesday, December 14, in which the Council had a full quorum, two cannabis companies sought approval to open facilities in Questa. First on the agenda was La Casa Cannabis, a Colorado company, interested in purchasing property in Questa to expand its cultivation operation. Because the property is next to Living Word Ministries, La Casa is requesting a zoning variance because the state requires that cannabis businesses be further than 300 feet from a church or school.
A member of Living Word Ministries, Jose Martinez, spoke out against the San Luis company’s proposal during the public comments section, citing social issues with New Mexican youth and drug addiction. “We know Questa has a drug problem. Where we stand, we don’t want that.”
Mayor Mark Gallegos responded to Martinez’s concern by stating Questa’s need for growth. “The Council can’t halt progress just because one or two people say, ‘wait, stop.’ We’ve been talking about marijuana since the state opened up,” said Gallegos.
Michael Nezi, a 30-year resident of Questa, representing Roots & Herbs Farm in El Rito, presented a proposal for a new cannabis production facility to be built in the Questa Business Park. Operating under the new brand name of 8K Cannabis, it would be located near Taos Bakes’ production facility.
Nezi’s Roots & Herbs currently sells CBD products at local retail stores, including Virsylvia Farm & Market, El Monte Carlo in Questa, and Cid’s Food Market in Taos, as well as through online sales.
Nezi explained that the projected revenue from adult-use cannabis in New Mexico is approximately $125 million annually and that Questa should get a piece of that pie. Nezi added that 8K Cannabis would start wages at $15 per hour with promises of benefit packages in the future.
Nezi’s company plans to give back to the community and has been working with local groups. “We plan on giving a percentage of revenue to the village as a charitable contribution as well, to help with building the skatepark for the youth or helping fund a new police force…”
Councilor John Ortega raised a concern about conflicts between the village and potential federal funding in the future. Cannabis has yet to be legalized at the federal level; Ortega turned to Village Attorney Chris DeFillippo, who responded that he was more concerned with potential zoning conflicts regarding agriculture: he said that the state government gives municipalities broad authority to regulate cannabis within their respective jurisdictions.
While there was no decision or approval made at that night’s meeting for either business, each councilor was in agreement that if the zoning is in compliance and if Questa was not in danger of losing federal funding, they would see no issue with moving forward at the December 28 meeting.
On December 27, Lisa Larsen of the US Economic Development Administration, informed the village that cannabis within the Questa Business Park (funded through the EDA), is not allowable under federal regulations. While cannabis is legal under New Mexico law, it remains a federally prohibited substance. A federal agency cannot authorize its assistance funds, or equipment/facilities purchased with such funds, to support an illegal business. The Controlled Substances Act provides that “marijuana” is a Schedule 1 substance. Any activity that is conducted with respect to property or services covered by the grant must be in compliance with federal law. “This is disappointing news for all of us; your presentation was excellent,” said village clerk Renee Martinez.
Questa is a prime location for the emerging cannabis market and several companies have expressed interest in opening up businesses in our part of New Mexico. See our report on the Dec. 28 Village council meeting.