Leaf Brief

Leaf Brief: Recreation Underway

First-week sales reach nearly $10 million; state working with pueblos to enter industry

Well, we’ve arrived, New Mexico.

With the state’s recreational cannabis sales under way, it didn’t take long for New Mexicans to ring the register. Businesses tallied nearly $10 million in sales in just the first weekend, according to the Cannabis Control Division of the Regulation and Licensing Department.

Roughly 250 retailers were licensed and open on April 1. People lined up outside dispensaries across the state, with some locations seeing hundreds patiently wait for their turn. Santa Fe’s R. Greenleaf location had a group of its own show up before the dispensary opened its doors at 7 am.

While many of the state’s medical cannabis producers have been in business for years, hundreds of new companies were granted licenses, and everyone’s getting in on the action. According to the state, nearly 100 minority-owned cannabis businesses and almost 100 more owned by women—with some overlap—have obtained licenses. You can find a directory of Santa Fe dispensaries SFR’s 2022 Cannabis Guide, published March 30.

Readers can also snag some cannabis-related merch. For a limited time, SFR is taking orders for T-shirts commemorating the first day of adult-use sales in New Mexico. Available in black, white and neon tie-dye, the shirts are based on the cover of the aforementioned Cannabis Guide.

Scroll down for more news from around the state and nation.

Testing Dispute

Cannabis Control Division, Sacred Garden clashing over testing standards

Personal Information

Local cannabis customers have expressed concerns over dispensaries scanning their IDs in order to enter stores. While businesses are only supposed to check IDs to ensure customers are 21, some retailers seem to put additional information into the company’s computer system. However, Heather Brewer, spokeswoman for the CCD, compared dispensaries checking IDs to businesses who check IDs for alcohol sales—grocery stores might scan a shopper’s driver’s license to buy beer, while a bartender might just look at the ID. Once the age has been verified, Brewer says, the CCD has “no capacity, nor authority nor interest in retaining any information about customers.”

Medical, Recreational Coexisting

Medical marijuana patients are now mingling with recreational shoppers in dispensaries across the state. Some patients say they are frustrated with having to wait in longer lines, and they’re finding companies are out of certain strains. State Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, told constituents in a telephone town hall with US Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-NM, on April 5 that cannabis growers have been setting aside 25% of their product to ensure supplies for medical patients are always sufficient. As for long lines at the dispensaries, Romero says much of it can be attributed to hype surrounding the first week of recreational sales. Many dispensaries are also allowing medical patients to skip the lines and get assistance from budtenders.

Texas Tourists

A large portion of the initial recreational sales have been attributed to Texans crossing the state line, with many of New Mexico’s dispensaries set up just on the other side of the border. According to data from the first week of sales, Albuquerque saw the most sales in the state, raking in more than $2.3 million. Santa Fe brought in the third-highest with around $529,000. Roughly 30 minutes away from the state line in Anthony, the city of Las Cruces topped that with $530,000 in sales. Smaller communities near the Lone Star State were also among the top suppliers, with Hobbs, Sunland Park, Clovis and Carlsbad all cracking the top 10. CCD officials have welcomed the state’s neighbors, but those crossing the state lines have also been warned of the potential for legal trouble. The law hasn’t changed in Texas, where cannabis concentrates could land a person in prison for two years. Still, it appears Texans are willing to gamble their freedom to participate in New Mexico’s newest venture.

Tribal Agreements

Prior to the onset of recreational sales, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced agreements with the Pueblos of Pojoaque and Picuris to allow the tribes to pursue cannabis businesses. The tribes have expressed their intentions to open dispensaries on tribal land, and intergovernmental agreements will reportedly allow for ongoing meetings and consultations between the tribes and state. However, questions regarding federal jurisdiction and law enforcement over the sovereign nations remain, which SFR is exploring in a story in its April 20 edition.

Testing Quarrel

On March 25, the CCD issued a cease and desist order to Sacred Garden, a well-known cannabis producer that has specialized in medical cannabis for years. The CCD claims the company’s product should not be released until it’s determined that Sacred Garden’s main distribution facility is safe and that its product meets quality standards related to mold and yeast. However, the producer says the division is using outdated testing measures that were replaced in a rule change made by the CCD in January. A Santa Fe District Court judge has ordered the two parties to come up with an agreed testing regimen to determine whether the product is safe, although further litigation could be necessary.

Federal Outlook

The US House of Representatives passed the MORE Act earlier this month, which would decriminalize cannabis by taking it off the federal government’s controlled substance list. Representatives don’t expect the US Senate to pass the bill, though, leaving the issue at a standstill. However, Rep. Stansbury says it’s a sign that Congress is working to bring federal laws more in line with New Mexico’s. Advocates hope to see a future version of the legislation pass both chambers, as the MORE Act would make it possible for cannabis businesses to access financial and banking institutions, provide expungements for those with marijuana-related crimes on their record, allow for prescription use for veterans with PTSD and remove barriers for research on cannabis and its other uses.

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