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Rule revision eases path for cannabis retail downtown

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Two cannabis retailers intended to set up shop in Gallup once legalization was finalized in April 2022. However, both retailer permits were initially denied when they were determined to be within 300 feet of protected uses, or residential uses, and both appeals challenged the 300-foot rule. The appellants also asked the city to reduce the allowable distance to 150 feet.

Rodney Curnutt wanted to open The Green Scene dispensary at 202 S. Third St. When his permit was denied, he challenged the definition of “residential use” and the inclusion of museums in protected uses. The council’s actions solved his problem so he was able to get Planning Commission approval for a conditional use permit the following day and is planning a grand opening for Jan. 23.

However, Joseph Hyde, of Hyderoponics Indoor Garden Center, wanted a conditional use permit to allow his garden supply business at 300 W. Hill Ave. to sell hemp seeds, arguing that the cannabinoid content of seeds is too low to be considered cannabis, so the 300-foot rule should not apply.

Hyde got fed up with waiting for the city to change the rules and moved his business to Grants before the change.

“I can’t just sit around. It’s not my personality, so I found another way,” he said. “I’m going to have a garden center for cannabis consumers and people who want to grow seeds at home.”

Hyde said he is still planning on selling seeds, but the new location will also allow him to sell consumable cannabis. Hyde’s state cannabis license has always allowed him to open a dispensary, but that was not his plan in Gallup. He decided to extend his business to include a dispensary, which opened Jan. 16 at 118 High St. in Grants under the Hyderoponics Indoor Garden Center name.

He’ll have to commute to work every day, but he said his rent is cheaper in Grants so that will offset the cost. He’s spent the last month getting the new location ready.

“I’ve been closed for a month so I could put all my time into getting this up and running. There was a lot I had to do,” he said.

Since he originally was only planning on selling seeds, he didn’t have security systems or safes set up. He also didn’t need solid commercial doors, but now that he’s selling consumable cannabis he has installed them at the new site.


The loss of one retailer to another city and ongoing clashes with other retailers led to the City of Gallup revising the zoning ordinance for cannabis  sales.

The biggest change to the Land Development Standards regarding marijuana sales is how the Planning Department will determine proximity to homes. Under the previous standards, cannabis retailers were barred from setting up shop within 300 feet of a “residential use.” But that definition was a bit unclear when it came to mixed uses downtown, where some businesses have attached apartments.

“We removed the term ‘residential use’ entirely because it was just too confusing. Is it a house? Is it an apartment? Is it when someone sleeps on a couch inside a business? So we just removed it,” Planning Manager Nikki Lee explained during the city council meeting Jan. 10. “Now what we are doing is controlling it with the pure residential districts.”

Going forward, cannabis retail will be allowed in primarily commercial districts, as long as they are 300 feet from the nearest residential zone. That spares prospective cannabis retailers the challenge of sitting 300 feet from apartments in downtown’s mixed use commercial zones.

The rules the city council City Council approved also remove museums from the list of “protected” uses that cannabis retailers must avoid. New cannabis retail is still forbidden within 300 feet of day care facilities, schools, religious institutions, cemeteries, community or recreation centers, correctional facilities, libraries, parks and public open spaces – unless they move in after the cannabis business is established.



Changes to the cannabis ordinance will also affect home growers. Planning and Development  Director C.B. Strain had mentioned in study sessions last year that home growers were often not complying with a rule that required grow operations to be in a secured building.

“Where we are having a big issue is with residential cultivation,” he said at the time. “The state requires that it be indoor cultivation. People are planting [marijuana plants] outside and covering them with a tarp.”

The revised ordinance states that home growers would need a permanent structure with solid walls that can be secured with a lock and “structures constructed or covered with plastic or cloth shall not be considered a secured building.” Outdoor cultivation is still prohibited.

All of that, however, isn’t the end of the cannabis conundrum. As the city was working on the retailing rules, prospective commercial cultivators have been watching.

Builder Rick Murphy raised the issue of overlap of an industrial zone, which allows cannabis cultivation, and the Downtown District Overlay zone, which does not.

“It is possible for the council to change the boundaries,” City Manager Maryann Ustick told the council. “You need to make a policy decision. Do you want it to be industrial or do you want it to be part of downtown?”

That issue was outside the scope of the revisions the Council was addressing, but the following day Murphy filed a request for a text amendment to make the change. That request is pending and will require public hearings.

At the meeting Murphy said zoning regulations are making it difficult for businesses.

“I always see us writing our way out of opportunities in this community,” he said. “If we tried to do the Flea Market now in the city it would never fly, but it’s a great attraction for Gallup.”

By Holly J. Wagner
Sun Correspondent