UPDATE #1, Feb. 8: The city of Las Cruces is standing by the revocation of a license for a business accused of ‘gifting’ cannabis.
The owner of ‘Speak Easy’ had appealed the city’s decision to take away his license, but city councilors and the mayor on Tuesday unanimously voted to deny the appeal, meaning the business cannot operate.
“Las Cruces is on the map for all the wrong reasons, said Councilwoman Johana Bencomo, who represents district four. “There are a lot of folks in this city who want to do this the right way – by the book.”
The company’s attorney, Matt Madrid, said New Mexico’s cannabis law did not specifically address the practice of gifting.
“Somebody said earlier to do it by the book,” Madrid told lawmakers. “You’ve got to have a book first.”
He said ‘gifting’ cannabis is a common practice in other states across the country.
“My clients didn’t just invent this and decide they were going to break the law,” he said.
After the state ordered the company to stop ‘gifting’ cannabis, a former metro narcotics agent told lawmakers that an agent was able to purchase cannabis from the shop.
Madrid is insisting that the agent purchased CBD, which does not meet the THC level of cannabis.
“The products taken by the officers that day on (August) 18th contained legal CBD from legal CBD manufacturers,” he told lawmakers.
“I have to rely on a sworn officer of the law,” Mayor Miyagishima told the attorney.
After the incident, Estrada was charged with a fourth degree felony, which has since been dismissed without prejudice. However, Madrid said he expects the state to seek an indictment through grand jury.
Madrid also said it is likely his client will again appeal the city’s decision in the Third Judicial District Court.
The city’s director of community and economic development told lawmakers that there is nothing that stops Estrada from applying for another business license within the city.
ORIGINAL STORY, Feb. 8: LAS CRUCES, New Mexico – The owner of a company accused of ‘gifting’ cannabis plans to appeal the city’s decision to revoke his license.
As ABC-7 reported last summer, the state of New Mexico issued a cease and desist order to ‘Speak Easy’ after learning that the store was gifting cannabis in exchange for retail purchases.
Shortly before the state stepped in, ABC-7 reporter Kate Bieri was able to walk into the store with $10, purchase a sticker and walk out with a ‘gift’ of cannabis.
The owner insisted he was selling merchandise to customers – not drugs.
“We’re not a dispensary,” said Jason Estrada, the owner of the store, in July. “We’re a novelty and gift shop.”
His lawyer told ABC-7 last summer that the store would comply with the state’s order to cease and desist ‘gifting’ cannabis.
“At no time were the management or employees of Speak Easy under the impression they were violating any laws or regulations,” Madrid wrote in a statement to ABC-7 last summer.
In September of last year, the city’s community development director delivered a letter to Estrada explaining that the city planned to revoke the business’s license, according to the city. In late October, his attorney appealed that decision.
The state also charged Estrada with the fourth-degree felony of conspiracy to commit violation of cannabis trafficking regulation, according to state court documents. That charge has since been dismissed without prejudice.
However, Madrid said Tuesday that it is possible the state will seek to indict his client by grand jury.