Letter To The Editor: To Be Or Not to Be – Atomic City Cannabis Company As A Home-based Integrated Cannabis Microbusiness?

By WILLIAM HUNTER
Los Alamos

My name is William Hunter. I’m a life-long (almost) resident of Los Alamos County. I first moved here when I was 4 years old, and have lived here, on and off, but mostly on, ever since.

I love living in Los Alamos because the community is safe, beautiful, and filled with good people. I hope to retire soon here; but continue to work here for a living, currently. I’ve worked as a Cosmetologist (“Hairdresser”) in Los Alamos for over 30 years. I became a small business owner in 1993, and leased (even then) very expensive spaces, uptown. Until 2002, when I converted the garage space of my home to business space, so the business could operate less expensively, and within County ordinance for a home-based business. This proved to be a wise decision, as my business took several financial “hits” (and never really recovered after each one before the next one came) in the ensuing years.

The first financial issues, in 2005-6, came due to the 6 month lab safety shutdown. Second, in 2008, financial issues came when there were LANL lay-offs and the bursting of the “housing/mortgage bubble”. The bursting of the housing/mortgage bubble did not really hit Los Alamos until 2012 when Los Alamos National Bank went down in disgrace.

Now, in 2020-2021, it’s the pandemic with its business interruptions (I was closed for 3 months in early-mid 2020), and COVID Safe Practices, which are good things, but add to expenses, and take away from total revenue.

The economic conditions in Los Alamos County have always been tough for small businesses (that are not somehow lab-connected), and it gets harder still. I’ve been a medical cannabis patient since 2013 and have been properly licensed to grow my own medical cannabis, in my back yard since 2014. So far, there have been no complaints, of which I am aware, regarding this fact.

The State of NM passed legislation, known as the Cannabis Regulation Act (CRA), in Spring 2021, legalizing cannabis for recreational and medical use in our state. I have read the CRA, and it appears to clear the legal way for small, some may be home-based, “Integrated Cannabis Microbusinesses” to operate throughout New Mexico.

My wife Collete and I are planning to end the hair business, and start a homebased “Integrated Cannabis Microbusiness” named Atomic City Cannabis Company right here in Los Alamos County. Since the end of July 2021 we have both been participating in the following County meetings when the subject has anything to do with Cannabis: Planning and Zoning Commission and County Council. We have participated in these meetings by giving public testimony and public comment. Recently, we met with County Staff in the Community Development Department to move forward with an application for a home-based business license. They await the County Council’s decision about the P&Z Commission’s Recommendation regarding Cannabis Retail before the license can be issued.

If we are successful in establishing our home-based business, it would the first, and so far, only, Cannabis business, let alone Microbusiness, in Los Alamos County. In fact, the State has already issued Atomic City Cannabis Company two business documents:

1) A “Certificate of Incorporation” from the NM Secretary of State’s office; and

2) A Certificate of Registration from the NM Tax and Revenue Department assigning Atomic City Cannabis Company a state tax ID number under which we can pay the local and state taxes to be assessed on Cannabis Retail sales.

In the meetings we have attended, we have watched (testifying or commenting when appropriate) as LAC has done it’s best to restrict the cultivation and manufacture of Cannabis to DP Road, and retail sales to a small downtown area of Los Alamos where the rents are a “budget buster” for small businesses. Recently, the P&Z Commission voted to recommend to the County Council that home-based cannabis businesses can retail to Medical Cannabis Patients ONLY per only the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act of 2007. I believe this recommendation, effectively, ignores the Cannabis Regulation Act (of which the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act is now a part and not separate from, as the County seems to believe).

In Los Alamos County, there are (per recent state DOH stats) 400 medical cannabis patients, and an as-yet-unknown number of (yet, presumed to be numerous) potential recreational cannabis consumers. The LAC market is actually, more or less, wide open to any qualifying adult cannabis consumer, via larger commercial enterprises (the largest ones would be able to cultivate, etc. up to 10,000 plants!), and “Integrated Cannabis Microbusinesses” (which are allowed to cultivate, etc., up to 200 plants total – our microbusiness would have many fewer, as our growing area can accommodate up to 30 plants total).

So, the LAC market can be open, except for certain restrictions the County appears to want to impose on small, home-based, integrated cannabis microbusinesses such as ours. Collete and I have begun the application process with the State of NM for the microbusiness and are also working with Los Alamos County Development Staff to obtain our home-based business license. There is still much work for us to do to make this micro business a going concern, but we are committed to positively participate in the process of doing so.

Also, it is worth noting that there are currently two alcohol-related home-based businesses in Los Alamos County – one a distillery, and the other a winery. Another item worth noting: Since the advent of the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act in 2007, New Mexico has had some of the most stringent rules in the USA regarding cannabis.

With all this said, we are seeking community feedback and/or support for our microbusiness quest and encourage any Los Alamos County resident to attend the Los Alamos County Council’s Town Hall meeting regarding Cannabis Retail that is coming up very soon. The Cannabis Retail Town Hall is being held via Zoom at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021. The Zoom meeting details are contained in the County’s announcement posted in the Los Alamos Daily Post (link) (only 5.5 days before the meeting) and should be in the print version distributed today.

I believe the Zoom link information should also be available via the County’s “Legistar” website.

Please attend, if at all possible, and give your feedback (even if not supportive of our business) on this issue. We welcome your feedback; it is important to us. Thank you!!!

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