Albuquerque cannabis equity findings have sat on a shelf for a year

Working group asks city to adopt recommendations submitted in spring 2022

By: - April 19, 2023 4:50 am
Two people sitting at a dais look to a third person standing away from the camera.

Albuquerque City Council President Pat Davis and Vice President Renee Grout listen to a city official during a meeting on Monday, April 18 2023. (Photo by Austin Fisher / Source NM)

Cannabis legalization in New Mexico was touted as being a way to repair the harms caused by the War on Drugs, while also creating opportunities for New Mexicans to participate in a new industry, said Shawna Brown.

The city of Albuquerque in August 2021 created the Cannabis Equity Working Group, after the passage of the Cannabis Regulation Act in 2021, which legalized sales of adult-use cannabis in New Mexico.

Brown was a member of the working group and was then contracted by the city, along with Rosalie Flores, to lead the listening sessions and in-person meetings with community members with lived experience, advocates from racial justice groups and cannabis industry professionals.

They gathered data and research, and incorporated them into the community feedback to write the recommendations, Brown said. The recommendations were submitted as part of a 21-page report in the spring of 2022, she said.

However, the administration has neither adopted nor formally rejected the recommendations, Brown told the Albuquerque City Council on Monday night.

She and two other members of the New Mexico Black Central Organizing Committee, Monae Archibeque and Erica Davis Crump, asked councilors to honor the substantial work experience of the volunteer Black, Indigenous and Latinx members of the community who contributed to the Cannabis Equity Working Group and consider adopting their recommendations.

“Though the state has failed at realizing a true plan for equity in the industry, the City of Albuquerque still has an opportunity to look at what’s possible for entrepreneurship, community safety, community reinvestment, and supporting the Black and Brown communities that have been impacted by the War on Drugs,” Brown said.

The Working Group recommended the money be identified as specific to the sale of recreational cannabis, should not revert to the city’s General Fund for spending on other public services, and should be used to help repair harms in the communities that have traditionally been most impacted.

Brown said there have been many times where the city government has asked for community feedback, “and then I feel like the city fails on keeping that feedback loop open about what’s going to happen next.”

Councilor Klarissa Peña said the city government is working on the issue and the new state law specifying how to spend money from the opioid settlement, “to ensure that we’re doing the right things with that money.”

Councilor Pat Davis asked whether the recommendations have been shared with the councilors.

“I haven’t seen it,” Davis said. “The council would love to see some of those ideas while we’re in the budget cycle.”

a fish eye lens photo of the Vincent E. Griego Chambers in Albuquerque, the official meeting place of the Albuquerque City Council
The Albuquerque City Council met on Monday, April 18 2023. (Photo by Austin Fisher / Source NM)


The Working Group’s report lays out several strategies that advocates say would have a meaningful impact on equity even beyond the cannabis industry, including housing, job training, education and bonds for young people who have been impacted.

One of the most basic recommendations is for the city government to create an Office of Cannabis Equity. To maintain a cannabis social equity program, the report states, there must be dedicated funding and staff who are well-versed in the new cannabis law.

“This would assist the industry with achieving equity goals, help New Mexicans new to this industry navigate the barriers to entry into the industry, and ensure that the city is allocating the resources — including tax dollars from cannabis sales — in an equitable manner,” Davis Crump said.

Another simple and easy-to-implement recommendation, Davis Crump said, would be to create a city website dedicated to cannabis equity where licensed applicants and others could learn about the industry and find definitions, benefits, the application process, and community safety measures.

Part of the law requires all police agencies in the state to report each year on how many people they arrest, cite and fine for cannabis-related violations, including the race, ethnicity, age and gender of those people.

The report says this information should also be published in an easy to access, centralized place on the city government’s website, and recommends the city track whether legalization positively changes arrest outcomes.

The report also recommends the Albuquerque Police Department prevent an increase in youth cannabis offenses by prioritizing alternatives to arrest, that police get training on the history of cannabis prohibition and racial disparities in arrests, legal possession limits, areas where consumption is legal, and harm reduction resources.

Archibeque asked the city government to carefully consider how the tax revenues from recreational cannabis sales are used.

A more complex recommendation is for the city government to enact environmental protections, Brown said. The report recommends the city government use existing data to limit the oversaturation of cannabis establishments in parts of the city vulnerable to increased rents and exploitation of low-income residents.

The report also recommends the city partner with local water and soil authorities to mitigate the impacts of cannabis water use on the larger ground and surface water systems.

You can see the entire report here:

_Recommendation - Cannabis Equity City of ABQ (1) (1) (1)

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Austin Fisher
Austin Fisher

Austin Fisher is a journalist based in Santa Fe. He has worked for newspapers in New Mexico and his home state of Kansas, including the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Garden City Telegram, the Rio Grande SUN and the Santa Fe Reporter. Since starting a full-time career in reporting in 2015, he’s aimed to use journalism to lift up voices that typically go unheard in public debates around economic inequality, policing and environmental racism.