It can be hard to separate the truth from the grift when it comes to semi-legal cannabis. Projected sales numbers quoted in the media often come from the sellers themselves.
So it is that LeafLink, which claims to be the largest digital platform for wholesale cannabis sales in the country, is projecting $1.17 billion worth of sales among recreational and medical cannabis retailers nationwide on Friday, April 20, a date with cultural significance for stoners and weed aficionados.
The company Ultra Health, which operates dispensaries in Santa Fe (1907 St. Michael's Drive, 216-0898) and other cities, and which regularly releases information about cannabis sales in New Mexico, estimated $800,000 in sales statewide last April 20, when there were only around 35,000 cardholders. With more than 50,000 people currently allowed to buy and possess the plant in the state, Ultra will again tally up sales numbers after this year's 4/20.
As semi-legal markets have cropped up in a majority of states, 4/20 has become a promotional brand, and the competition for attention and dollars will be more intense in Santa Fe than it has been in previous years.
Over the weekend, at least three well-advertised 4/20 celebrations are happening around town, one of which promises to feature gubernatorial candidates Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Jeff Apodaca.
Several of the eight Santa Fe dispensaries are also promoting reduced-price and free product giveaways. For example, CG Corrigan, Santa Fe's newest dispensary (802 Early St., 695-1162), will be selling pre-rolled joints at a discount on Friday. Shift New Mexico (24 Bisbee Court, 438-1090) will sell two pre-rolls for a penny each with every $50 purchase, and Minerva (1710 Cerrillos Road, 982-1090), plans to discount everything 20 percent and have prize drawings.
"We were a little more aggressive this year as far as giveaways and stuff like that," says Josh Alderete, a manager at the New Mexicann Natural Medicine dispensary (1592 San Mateo Lane, 982-2621). In addition to sales on various products, New Mexicann plans to give away free breakfast and lunch for cardholders and is selling weed-infused meals to-go.
"I'm expecting it to be a lot bigger than it was last year," says Alderete.
Two other dispensaries are hosting parties over the weekend. Fruit of the Earth (901 Early St., 310-7917) promises sales and free stuff, and is throwing a 420 celebration party Friday night. Kure Cannabis (220 N Guadalupe St., 930-5339), which opened last fall, will have live music, an art showcase and vendors selling CBD products on Saturday afternoon.
One Las Cruces couple has organized what they call New Mexico 420 Fest, which will take place at the Bridge at Santa Fe Brewing Company (37 Fire Place, 557-6182) on Friday and Saturday afternoon. The event is Ken and Melissa Thompson's second 420 festival, and their first in Santa Fe.
Special guests include gubernatorial candidate and Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham on Saturday night, as well as candidate Jeff Apodaca on Friday. Both are proponents of lifting certain restrictions off the state's medical cannabis program, although only Apodaca has come out in support of a legal market.
"We bought education awareness [to Las Cruces]," says Melissa, who says she is originally from Santa Fe. "We decided to bring it to Santa Fe, where [the festival] is going to reside from here on out."
They say they were motivated to put together the festival because at least one poll found a majority of New Mexicans support a recreational market for cannabis in the state. Like the managers of most of the dispensaries SFR spoke with, they were optimistic that a change in the governor's seat would bode well for cannabis.
"We're trying to push the recreational issue because not everyone can afford medical [cannabis]," says Ken, who estimates about 2,000 people attended their festival last year. "And let's face it, the taxation on it will benefit our economy on all levels."
The New Mexico 420 Festival is sponsored in part by Santa Fe dispensary Sacred Garden (1300 Luisa St., 216-9686). The store plans to have a booth at the event where its employees will "give out free information and talk to people about medical benefits of cannabis," according to owner Zeke Shortes.
"We were asked if we wanted to be the sole medical cannabis sponsors [of the festival], and we said, for sure," Shortes tells SFR.
Shortes feels ambivalent about the madness the day can bring, and acknowledges the weirdness of everybody selling more medicine on one particular day—not something you normally see for other medicinal products.
Cannabis, though, isn't a normal product.
“We have to be aware of the market and what the market does, and that’s what the market does,” says Shortes of heightened sales on 4/20. “I told our guys, let’s take care of people. If other [dispensaries] get a lot of business that day, I’m okay with that.”
That doesn't mean Sacred Garden is sitting the day out: The store's specials for Friday include chocolate bars and syrups loaded with a very high amount of THC, and free CBD gummies while they last.