SANTA FE, New Mexico
New Mexico is bringing recreational marijuana sales to the doorstep of Texas, the largest prohibition state, as the movement toward broad legalization sweeps the American West even further.
As of Friday in New Mexico, anyone 21 and older can purchase up to 2 ounces (57 grams) of marijuana — enough to roll about 60 joints or cigarettes — or comparable amounts of liquid marijuana concentrates and edible treats. .
New Mexico has developed a medical marijuana program since 2007 under strict restrictions. Friday’s changes still represent a step change for local law enforcement, tax authorities, commercial growers and residents who thought full legal access to pot would never come.
Across the state, aspiring marijuana growers are bidding for water rights and learning to grow their first cannabis crops, while experienced medical cannabis growers are ramping up production and adding new sales showrooms to the detail.
New Mexico is among 18 states that have legalized recreational cannabis, with implications for cannabis tourism and conservative Texas, where legalization efforts have made little headway.
In Clovis, New Mexico, a high plains town of about 40,000 people less than 10 miles from Texas, Earl Henson and two business partners pooled their resources to convert an old gun store and field shooting into a cannabis store and a complementary culture. room at a main street address.
“I can’t explain how happy I am,” said Henson, a former real estate agent who says his affection for marijuana was a burden in the past. This week he started harvesting the first crop for a cannabis store called Earl and Tom’s. “I think those cities that are near Texas, for the next two years, it’s going to change their economies.”
In the state capital of Santa Fe, marijuana is on sale across from the city’s new visitor center, in a block lined with galleries, clothing stores and restaurants.
LeRoy Roybal, manager of downtown cannabis store Minerva Canna, said he hopes the stigma of cannabis use will fade quickly.
“I think we’re freeing a lot of hearts and souls,” he said. “It will be like having a cup of coffee at Starbucks.”
Supportive lawmakers hope broad legalization of marijuana will eliminate black markets, boost employment and provide stable new sources of government revenue.
Consumers will initially rely heavily on supplies from 35 legacy marijuana companies that have taken root over the past 15 years. Cannabis regulators have issued more than 230 new marijuana business licenses so far – to growers, retailers and manufacturing facilities for extracts and edibles.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said Thursday that the broad legalization of marijuana is responding to popular demands and generating opportunities for small businesses.
“That’s what consumers want,” said Lujan Grisham, a candidate for re-election in November. “We have the potential for 11,000 additional workers, jobs in places where young people can work and stay, like Torrance County and Texico and Tucumcari and Raton.”
Local governments cannot completely ban cannabis businesses, although they can restrict locations and hours of operation. Public consumption is prohibited under penalty of a $50 fine for the first violation.
New business licenses for cafes or cannabis lounges have not yet been applied for – leaving people to indulge at their homes or at designated hotels, casinos and cigar shops.
In southern New Mexico, Mayor Javier Perea of Sunland Park says marijuana retailers can set up shop anywhere in the small town bordered by the Rio Grande and fenced along the US border with Mexico.
He said about 30 marijuana businesses have applied for licensing in the city of just 17,000 people, banking on tourism near El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez in Mexico.
Perea hopes the industry will create economic opportunities and tax revenues to strengthen city services. Local governments will receive a minority share of the state’s 12% excise tax on recreational marijuana sales, as well as a share of additional sales taxes. Medical cannabis remains tax exempt.
“The only thing we’re going to struggle with is that we’re going to run out of buildings” for new businesses, he said.
Legal experts warn that people who buy cannabis in New Mexico and choose to return home to other states risk criminal penalties, arrest and incarceration, including in Texas.
Paul Armento, deputy director of drug policy group NORML, said Texas was a top state for marijuana possession arrests and that possession of marijuana concentrates, which are legal in New Mexico , is punishable in Texas by up to two years in prison. and a fine of $10,000.
Marijuana also remains illegal under federal law to possess, use, or sell — a standard that applies to large swathes of federal lands and Indian Country in New Mexico.
New Mexico’s cannabis industry, still dependent on cash to avoid breaking federal law, has access to banking services through an alternative certification system for credit unions and banks backed by attorneys general States.
The state also plans to take out $5 million in low-interest loans to small cannabis businesses that don’t have access to traditional credit.
New Mexico lawmakers have sought to reverse the damage inflicted by the criminalization of marijuana on minority communities and poor households by automatically dismissing or expunging past cannabis-related convictions, encouraging social and economic diversity in employment and reducing financial barriers for start-ups.
The state’s micro-enterprise license to grow up to 200 plants for a fixed fee of $1,000 is attracting new commercial growers such as recently retired US sailor Kyle Masterson and his wife Ivy, a veteran of the Hispanic military with business consulting experience. They raise three children and turn to cannabis in mid-life.
The Mastersons, residents of suburban Rio Rancho, searched more remote areas for an affordable building to grow high-quality marijuana under lights, settling in a vacant former movie theater in Cuba, New Mexico, Mexico. foot of the Jemez Mountains.
“It was fine, it was fine and out of a vision of what we could do,” said Kyle, who served in four combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. “We are used to working in austere environments without too many guidelines and doing our best.”