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Hobbs approves marijuana ordinances

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Marijuana is now, officially, legal within the Hobbs city limits.

During its Monday meeting, the Hobbs CIty Commission unanimously approved two city ordinances that changed language to reenforce that fact.

Ordinance 1133 adopts Chapter 5.06 of the Hobbs Municipal Code, which legalizes the possession, cultivation, manufacture and sale of cannabis. Ordinance 1135 amends Chapter 9.28 of the Hobbs Municipal Code relate to drugs and drug paraphernalia. The amendment deletes the word “marijuana” from the chapter.

The commission members voiced their disapproval of the legalization of marijuana in the previous commission meetings, but the New Mexico Legislature’s approval of legalization during a special session earlier this year made their objections moot. If the Hobbs commission voted to not pass the ordinances, it would have set the city up for possible litigation in the future from the state’s cannabis industry.

And even though the ordinances have passed, it doesn’t mean the commission is done. Following last week’s work session with local cannabis enthusiasts, it became clear to the commission members that amendments to Chapter 5.06 was needed. Much of the ordinance’s regulation dealt with the number of plants. Local cannabis enthusiasts felt the regulation should be tied into water consumption.

Before the vote Mayor Sam Cobb and other commissioners had questions for Hobbs Deputy City Attorney Valerie Chacon regarding the amendment process if the ordinance is passed.

“If the ordinance was failed this evening and we had to do amendments and bring it back, how long would that take,” Cobb asked Chacon.

If the amendments were within the New Mexico state law Chacon said a new version of the ordinance could be available for the commission in November. The new version of the ordinance would return to the commission at the next commission meeting, Oct. 18, for approval/disapproval vote for publication to constituents. That takes at least two weeks. Following those two weeks, the new ordinance would return to the commission, most likely during the first meeting in November, for adoption, or not.

“If we approve it this evening, knowing that we need to do some amendments based on some of the input we received during the work session and so forth, what would be the time line?” Cobb said.

“Basically the same amount of time,” Chacon responded. “If (the ordinance) fails and you choose to add amendments to it, and we don’t want to pass the one that’s (before the commission on Monday), we can have that ready for you by the next commission meeting, Oct. 18.”

Chacon said that if the commission approved the ordinance and then come back with amendments, the same amount of time would be needed to approve the amendments than if the commission failed the original ordinance for one that is amended.

“So basically, if we vote yes or no, the process is still the same?” asked Commission Larron Fields.

“That’s right,” Chacon answered.

“But we have a place holder,” Cobb added. “If we approve it this evening we have a place holder. And although some of the portions of the ordinance may not be where we want them at the end of the day, we have a place holder that we can work with.”

Commission Dwayne Penick, who attended the meeting via phone, reiterated that if approved, the ordinance would allow those local cannabis enthusiasts the ability to start the process of obtaining a business license while the commission works on the amendments.

Commission Chris Mills, a local defense attorney, commented before the vote on the drastic change of ideals the state statute and city ordinance brought to New Mexico.

“It’s not lost on me that we are sitting around talking about that now it’s legal to grow marijuana,” Mills said. “I’ve spent 15 years in a society where this was imprisonable. There are tens of thousands of people in the penitentiary right now for growing marijuana plants. We can talk about this, but tomorrow there will still be tens of thousands of people in the penitentiary for growing marijuana plants. And it’s really hard on me that just in one day, because the government wants to, we just flip the switch and everything is OK. While those tens of thousands of people, a lot of them are in New Mexico, in the federal pen, they are being stored here. Most of them are young and most of them are black. This is a New Mexico deal, but the rest of the world hasn’t gone this direction. The banks haven’t went this direction. It’s still against federal law and despite the fact we have to do this as a city because the state’s made this law and we have to somewhat protect ourselves and regulate our community to avoid bad things, this is really hard for me to comprehend after spending the last 15 years of my life defending people for growing marijuana plants.

“This blows my mind. So I think we have sort of missed how big of a deal this is and how big of a change this is and how this is for us to comprehend, let alone figure out.”

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