LAS CRUCES – Local businessman Jason Estrada ended a bid for Las Cruces mayor hours after the Las Cruces City Council revoked the license for one of his businesses Tuesday, denying an appeal from Estrada.
The business, Speak Easy, a CBD and cannabis-themed retailer, had its license revoked by the city Community Development Department in September after Estrada was charged with a cannabis-related felony. He allegedly sold cannabis to undercover law enforcement at Speak Easy.
Though Estrada has not been convicted, the city decided the charge was enough to warrant the revocation of the license.
“It’s a violation of our own city code to allow a business, have a business or premise that allows crime to occur,” Deputy City Attorney Robert Cabello said at the public hearing before the council Tuesday.
Speak Easy appealed the decision, delaying the revocation and putting the decison in the hands of the city council.
While Estrada’s case was dismissed without prejudice Jan. 7, his attorney has said the state may seek a grand jury indictment.
At the public hearing, Matt Madrid, Estrada’s attorney, raised issue with the premise that the city could revoke somebody’s license for merely being charged with a crime.
“The presumption of innocence is something that we all have a right to,” Madrid said. “(If a) restaurant owner gets a DUI, we don’t yank his business license before we know what happened.”
Estrada, who announced his run for mayor just over a week before he received the felony charge, also owns Everything Las Cruces, a company which markets and promotes the city and local businesses. He hadn’t fully developed his platform when he spoke to the Sun-News in September, but he said his campaign would broadly focus on assisting small businesses, maximizing the impact of legal cannabis, education and mental health.
‘We’re the only ones’
Estrada did not testify nor give comments to the media at the council meeting since the criminal case could still move forward.
But the silence didn’t last long.
Less than two hours after the decision, Estrada appeared on the Speak Easy podcast live on Facebook to give his thoughts on the matter for 29 minutes.
Estrada and a co-host said the council discussion showed the elected officials were out of their depth and lacked expertise in cannabis law and the industry. The duo repeated Madrid’s argument that the products directly sold to law enforcement in August contained legal Delta-8 tetrahydrocannabinol and not illegal amounts of Delta-9 THC.
“Tomorrow morning, other businesses are going to open doing the same thing that we were doing,” Estrada said. “We’re the only ones that have to call our employees right now and say, ‘Hey, guess what? You can’t show up to work today.'”
Estrada again accused the city of targeting him because of his interest in mayoral office. He repeated an argument from City Councilor Becky Corran, who asked Cabello Feb. 8 why businesses who have been found responsible for back wages, for instance, haven’t lost their licenses.
“This just happened to us,” Estrada said. “I don’t think anybody out there should stand for it. Even if you don’t know us, don’t know our business … you shouldn’t agree with the situation that just happened.”
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Estrada also said he was angry that the city chose to pull the license even though he has not been convicted of a crime.
Near the end of the podcast, Estrada dropped the news that his mayoral bid wouldn’t go forward.
“I have a platform, guys, a way bigger one than you,” Estrada said addressing the city. “That’s why I’m not going to run for mayor, because I have a way better opportunity of letting things be known and changing things doing what we’re doing right here.”
Estrada still encouraged anybody with interest in mayoral office to reach out to him if they’d like to appear on his social media platform.