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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

New Mexico starts selling cannabis within reach of Texas

SANTA FE, NM ( Associated Press) — New Mexico brought recreational marijuana sales to the doors of Texas, the largest Prohibition state, as the movement toward widespread legalization grows even more in the American West.

Anyone 21 years of age 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 concentrates and food treats. By Friday evening, the first day’s sales reached nearly $2 million.

New Mexico has nurtured a medical marijuana program since 2007 under strict restrictions. Friday’s launch still represents a sea change for local law enforcement, taxation officials, commercial producers and residents who thought full legal access to pot would never come.

At the Santa Fe dispensary, customers said they were thrilled to openly shop and break with the black market.

“When they legalized it here, I didn’t need my boy anymore,” said Devin Kilroy, a painter and workman in white.

Grocery employee Antonio Rodriguez, 38, said he was content to pay taxes on recreational cannabis: “I want everyone to be legal, even if it’s more expensive.”

Marijuana farmers are bidding for water rights and learning how to grow the crop, as seasoned medical cannabis growers ramp up production and add retail showrooms.

New Mexico is among 18 states, including neighboring Arizona and Colorado, as well as the entire West Coast, that have legalized pot for recreational use, with implications for cannabis tourism and conservative Texas, where legalization efforts have led to Little progress has been made.

A marijuana decriminalization bill won US House approval on Friday but is unlikely to pass the Senate. Republicans said the potent pot is spoiling users, and has shown marijuana as a gateway to opioids and other dangerous substances.

In Clovis, a highland New Mexico town of about 40,000 residents less than 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Texas, Earl Henson and two business partners converted a former gun shop and shooting range into a cannabis shop and fellow growing room. Resources pooled for replacement. A main street address.

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“I can’t describe how happy I am,” said Henson, a former real estate agent who says his fondness for marijuana was a burden. He’s reaping the first harvest for a store called Earl & Toms. “These cities that Texas has for the next two years it’s going to change their economies.”

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In the state capital, Santa Fe, marijuana is on sale a block from the city’s newly constructed Visitor Center with galleries, clothing boutiques, and restaurants.

Leroy Royble, the manufacturer and manager of the downtown Santa Fe store for dispensary chain Minerva Canna, hopes the pot stigma will fade quickly.

“We are freeing a lot of hearts and souls,” he said. “It would be like getting a cup of Joe at Starbucks.”

Supporting lawmakers hope legalization will end the black market, boost employment and provide stable new sources of government income.

Consumers will initially rely heavily on the 35 legacy marijuana businesses that have taken root over the past 15 years. Regulators have issued more than 230 new marijuana business licenses to growers, retailers, and manufacturing facilities for extracts and foods.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, who visited a busy store on Friday, says the legalization responds to popular demands and is creating small business opportunities.

“This is what consumers want,” said Lujan Grisham, up for re-election in November. “We have capacity for 11,000 more workers, jobs in places where young people can work and live, like Torrance County and Texico and Tucumcari and Raton.”

Local governments cannot ban the trading of cannabis outright, although they can limit locations and hours. Public consumption is fined $50.

Business licenses have not yet been requested for cannabis cafes or lounges – people have been left to indulge in at home or in designated hotels, casinos and cigar shops.

In Sunland Park, surrounded by the Rio Grande and US-Mexico border fence, Mayor Javier Perea says marijuana retailers can set up in a small town of just 17,000 residents. He said about 30 businesses have sought authorization, banking on tourism, from El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez in Mexico.

Peria hopes the industry will create economic opportunities and tax income to boost the city’s services. Local governments would receive a minority of the state’s 12% excise duty on recreational marijuana sales, along with a portion of additional sales taxes. Medical cannabis is tax free.

“One thing we’re going to struggle with is we’re going to run out of buildings” for new businesses, he said.

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Legal experts warn that New Mexico clients who return home to other states may run the risk of criminal penalties, arrest and imprisonment – ​​particularly in Texas.

Paul Armento, deputy director of drug policy group NORML, said Texas is one of the leading states for marijuana-possession arrests, and concentrating there can lead to up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Possession, use, or sale of marijuana is also federally illegal – a standard that applies to federal lands in New Mexico and vast tracts of Indian countryside.

New Mexico’s cannabis industry, which still relies on cash to avoid violations of federal law, is gaining access to banking services through an alternative certification system for credit unions and banks backed by state attorneys general.

The state also plans to underwrite $5 million in low-interest loans to small cannabis businesses that can’t access traditional loans.

Lawmakers sought to reverse the damage done by marijuana criminalization on minority communities and poor families by automatically repealing or erasing previous cannabis punishment, encouraging social and economic diversity in employment, and lowering financial barriers for startup businesses. Is.

The state’s micro-business license to cultivate up to 200 plants for a flat $1,000 fee is attracting first-time commercial growers, such as recently retired U.S. Marine Kyle Masterson and wife Ivy, a Hispanic Army veteran of the business. With consulting experience. They’re raising three kids and turning a mid-life career to cannabis.

A resident of suburban Rio Rancho, Masterson searched more remote areas for an affordable building to cultivate high-grade marijuana under lights, an empty former movie theater in tiny Cuba, just in a village near the Jemez Mountains. Went.

“It felt right, it felt good and out of sight of what we could do,” said Kyle Masterson, who served in four combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. “We are used to working out and doing our best outside harsh environments without any direction.”

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Attanasio is a core member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. report for america is a non-profit national service program that hires journalists in local newsrooms to report on the issues covered. follow him Twitter,

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