Out in the Open

Santa Fe locals, tourists feel liberated in dispensary visits for first day of recreational cannabis sales

Friday marked an historic, long-awaited moment for cannabis users in Santa Fe and around New Mexico: the first day of adult-use, recreational sales.

It was a liberating experience for those waiting in line outside of the R. Greenleaf dispensary for the company’s 7 am opening, with no more parking lot transactions, suspicious-looking buds or fear from the law. The fact the sun had barely risen above the horizon didn’t matter. The excitement of a new frontier permeated the scene and quelled any thoughts of going back to sleep.

Waiting patiently outside the business on Cordova Road, Steve Sanderson, Santa Fe’s first to legally purchase cannabis that wasn’t for medicinal purposes, was “stoked.”

“I just think it’s cool, because now everybody can get some,” he tells SFR.

Walking into a store to buy weed is an unusual feeling for people like Kyana Perraglio, who can’t help but still look over her shoulder.

“It feels very freeing, but it’s strange. It feels like I’m doing something wrong, but it’s awesome,” she says, adding that finding cannabis in the past was difficult. “It wastes a lot of gas and a lot of time. It’s going to be easier now, because it’s at most 10 minutes away from home.”

Friday also marked the end of a paradox in state law: After passage of the Cannabis Regulation Act last year, adults over 21 could legally possess and use cannabis, but they couldn’t purchase it anywhere without a medical card.

Those with cards have been using cannabis to treat conditions for years, but the swag offered for the first set of customers was enough to bring them out for the state’s first recreational day. An experienced user, Derek Martinez, advises greenhorns to take it slow and listen to the professionals when scouring dispensary options.

“With the edibles, take your time,” he says.

To celebrate the day, dispensaries are offering extra supplies and prizes to customers just for showing up. Anthony Smith scored a Puffco Peak Pro, a souped-up vaporizer with bluetooth capabilities, at R. Greenleaf.

“I knew this was going on and that they would have giveaways,” Smith says. “So I was hoping to win something and I really wanted this. They’re very expensive, like $400, and I couldn’t afford one otherwise.”

Cannabis has long been associated with negative stereotypes—that users are lazy and unattentive, or that it brings unnecessary crime. Some still have concerns, but Perraglio said users aren’t hurting anybody.

“From what I’ve heard from people, a lot of people are excited, but then people are also a little apprehensive about it,” she says. “They’re a little bit afraid of what it’s going to bring, but I don’t think we’re trouble.”

If locals fear a crush of out-of-towners, tourists visiting Santa Fe say they would have come to the city, anyway. According to Minerva Canna manager Leroy Roybal, “tons of people” from Texas and Arizona stopped in for the morning rush.

“Their exact words were, ‘Thank God we don’t have to go to Colorado now,’” he relays.

Sammy Smith, from Texas, says he and his girlfriend had already planned to make a trip, and that Friday’s weed liberation is icing on the cake.

“We’ve been wanting to visit for quite a while,” Smith says, visiting Minerva Canna near the Plaza. “But we saw this was happening and sort of scheduled our days around it. We’ll also probably visit New Mexico more now, since it’s still frowned on in Texas.”

Government prohibition has created the familiar stigma that accompanies cannabis, says Marcos Padilla.

“I think everyone in Santa Fe is all for it,” he says. “It’s been around since back in the day, it just wasn’t legal. So that’s what everyone’s fear was. Now that it’s legal, everyone can enjoy it.”

First-day customers tell SFR they’d rather see fellow New Mexicans use cannabis than harder drugs. The industry is also projected to create 11,000 jobs and bring roughly $300 million annually to the economy.

Steve Mandel, a cannabis industry worker, is more excited about the benefits for local communities.

“Hopefully we should have some better schools and roads from all the tax revenue,” he says.

State courts are working on expunging the records of thousands of New Mexico residents with previous marijuana possession charges.

Perusing the products at Minerva Canna on Friday were Eric and Amy Heithaus, who say a clean record for that group will help the community and small business owners.

“Those people that have their records expunged can now go get loans, or jobs, that they couldn’t have gotten,” Amy says. “The businesses that are closed because they don’t have applicants that could fulfill those requirements, they can hire people now.”

Supply and demand remains a concern, as some producers claim there won’t be enough cannabis to go around. With so many people flocking to their nearest dispensary, along with the added excitement of prohibition ending, it’s unclear whether companies will be able to keep up. As of 8 pm, the state saw $1.88 million worth of recreational sales, making up 71.2% of total sales, according to numbers from the Cannabis Control Division.

Dominic Garcia, R. Greenleaf’s vice president of marketing and retail for New Mexico, says over 400 people were in line at the company’s Las Cruces operation where the dispensary opened up at midnight and kept its doors open all morning.

“Initially, I think we’ll be fine for a while,” Garcia says. “I think we’re set up for the long term, but it depends on the competition and how the market reacts.”

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