SUNLAND PARK – Friday was known as “Rec Day” among the staff of Pecos Valley Production’s Sunland Park cannabis dispensary.
Shops across New Mexico opened their doors to customers age 21 and over buying “recreational” cannabis (as opposed to medicinal products) for the first time on April 1.
Kayla Wolfe, the dispensary compliance manager tasked with making sure PVP’s 15 locations comply with company standards and New Mexico’s cannabis regulations, sported cannabis flower earrings as she interacted with staff and customers waiting in a long line outside the store.
Late in the afternoon, about 50 people waited patiently to enter. Wolfe said the dispensary had been passing out water and popsicles to patrons waiting to show their identification and gain admittance to the showroom. Customers in line said they had been waiting as long as two hours.
Wolfe said patients enrolled in New Mexico’s medical cannabis program came first, with exclusive access to online ordering. Customers appearing in person with medical cards were offered immediate entry through a dedicated entrance.
By law, she said, “we have to maintain that 10 to 25 percent of our inventory for them and only them. … We’ve definitely done lots of preparation, at least as much as we could, to be able to meet the demand that’s coming up.”
Some industry advocates prefer the term “adult use” to “recreational,” arguing that the dichotomy stigmatizes those who use cannabis without a physician’s signature or a state-minted medical cannabis card.
Wolfe said she regards the cannabis plant as medicinal, with a prescription or not.
“I will always call it medicine even though it’s recreational now,” she said, “and I would encourage everyone to educate themselves on how cannabis can help them and the ways they can benefit from it, other than relieving some stress or having fun.”
She said supplies of both classes of product were holding up fine on opening day, in spite of concerns in the industry about shortages of supply ahead of the opening of the state’s brand-new, regulated marketplace for cannabis, which remains forbidden under federal law.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Wolfe said of the opening of the marketplace. “I think we’re all pleasantly surprised. We were all kind of sitting in the seat of the roller coaster waiting for it take off.”
The first day’s sales were robust. Dispensaries opened as early as midnight Friday, and by 8 p.m., New Mexico’s Cannabis Control Division reported nearly $1.9 million in adult use sales, and more than $760,000 in medical sales. More than 70 percent of the 40,000 cannabis purchases made in the first 20 hours were for general adult use.
According to New Mexico’s Cannabis Control Division, as of 8 p.m. Friday $1,882,829 in non-medical cannabis had been sold since recreational cannabis sales became legal, while $760,593 in medical products had been sold.
A festive atmosphere prevailed outside the store despite the long wait. Every space in the parking lot was full and cars were parked on both sides of Appaloosa Drive. Notably, the overwhelming majority of the vehicles sported license plates from Texas, where cannabis remains illegal.
With Sunland Park bordering El Paso, PVP’s location is highly convenient for Texans desiring to visit a New Mexico dispensary; but there are not, as yet, any licensed “cannabis consumption areas” where it may be consumed publicly, and Wolfe cautioned against Texas visitors taking the product home.
“PVP does not condone taking medicine or cannabis over state lines,” she said. “It is illegal, so keep that cannabis in New Mexico, please!”