By Sarah Smith
On September 6, the Las Cruces City Council and Mayor voted unanimously to allow recreational marijuana to be sold right next to New America School, despite the fact that the City Ordinance calls for a minimum buffer distance of 300 feet between a school and a marijuana dispensary. The dispensary will be in an existing pharmacy that actually shares a wall with the school, and several of the school’s classrooms look out over the parking lot of the pharmacy.
The school Administrator attended the Sept 6 meeting and pleaded for the City Council to not allow marijuana to be sold next door. According to the Administrator, the school is already struggling with substance use issues (including marijuana and vaping), the students attending this school are poor and high-risk, and the school has an onsite Day Care center for young children whose playground shares a wall with the adjoining pharmacy. The pharmacy knew that the school did not want marijuana being sold next-door when they (the pharmacy) chose to occupy the space adjoining the school.
The parents of students attending the school generally could not afford to miss work to attend the Council meeting to make their voices heard. Meanwhile, the comments of numerous people who had a vested interest (because they sell cannabis, too) was given heavy weight. The fact that there are alcohol establishments relatively close seemed to sway the Council members as well, as if two wrongs make a right. (Only one of these alcohol establishments is within the 300-foot buffer zone, and that is about 200 feet away across a very busy intersection from the school.)
The pharmacy also presented a survey which was done by the pharmacy itself. This survey was clearly not representative of the general public given that the survey found “100%” of people in support of medical cannabis being sold at that location. A true and valuable survey would have included the parents of the kids attending the school instead of focusing on the client base of the pharmacy.
I can’t help but wonder how things would worked out differently if this school had been in a high-income area. There would likely have been numerous parents in attendance, and the Council would have heard their concerns instead of the large majority of attendees being pro-cannabis. I seriously doubt the Council would have looked those many parents in the eye and unanimously voted to allow marijuana next door.
The issue being questioned was not the medicinal value of cannabis nor the fact that the pharmacy would only sell to those over 21 years of age. It was about recreational cannabis and the crowd that comes along with it being right next to a school/daycare that is already struggling with substance use issues. This becomes yet another instance when the poor children have been left disadvantaged: the City Council did not even stand up for them as far as enforcing the minimal precaution of keeping marijuana from being sold right next door to their school.
Sarah Smith is one of the leaders for both the New Mexico Freedoms Alliance and the National Coalition for Health Integrity. She is a natural health care practitioner and former NASA Aerospace Engineer.