BELEN, N.M. (KRQE) – Belen is not accepting any new cannabis retail applications. The mayor is worried the number of stores could overwhelm the city of nearly 7,400 people. The resolution was approved three-to-one at the latest council meeting. Council members say the existing ordinance was passed as a living document to be reviewed and changed as appropriate.

Right now, the city has three cannabis stores with four applications are awaiting approval.

Mayor Pro Tem Danny Bernal is against the application pause, saying the new businesses have helped the city. From 2021 to now, Bernal says the city’s raked in around $16,000 in gross receipts tax.

“They’re renovating vacant buildings within the city and it would be awesome to open up because it’s vacant buildings here in Belen. The fact that they’re using their money and investing in our city is awesome,” said Bernal.

But Mayor Robert Noblin is worried businesses won’t stay long. He said in a statement:

“The purpose of the resolution is to take a step back and review the fast moving cannabis industry within the city of Belén.  As New Mexico continues to navigate the blanket legalization of cannabis, density must be addressed to insure that dispensaries opening will be viable for the long term.  We do not want to fill vacant buildings, only to have them vacant again within months due to an abundance of supply and little demand.  Also, a majority of the tax revenue benefits the state, not the city and the city of Belén has averaged just over $3,300 per month in tax revenue, largely in part due to medical marijuana not being taxed.”

Mayor Robert Noblin

The city will have seven stores total when the four currently pending are approved.

In Albuquerque, Duke Rodriguez, the CEO of Ultra Health, said they’ve been in the business for a decade and have seen how fast the industry is growing. He understands the Belen mayor’s concern about new businesses surviving in a tough market.

“The neighborhoods know who we are and I don’t think because you pop a sign in front of your window and say you’re a new dispensary that guarantees you’re going to win, that guarantees you’re going to gain market share,” said Rodriquez. “In many locations where we probably didn’t have another competitor for two or three miles, now we probably have seven within three blocks.”

The city’s website shows Albuquerque has 148 cannabis retail locations. The planning department says it’s receiving five or fewer applications per week. Right now, only one is under review.

The city of Albuquerque had one of the highest sales numbers in August and the city council is not considering any caps at this time.

It’s unknown how long the city of Belen will halt accepting new applications.