Rocky Mountain Cannabis, a dispensary opening soon in Anthony, N.M., is located just a few steps across the state line from Anthony, Texas. (Angela Kocherga / El Paso Matters)
Sales soared to almost $10 million at New Mexico dispensaries during the first week of April after the state allowed the sale of recreational marijuana, and businesses near the Texas state line are among those benefiting the most.
“We are happy to welcome visitors from Texas and around the country to come to our state to enjoy great cannabis products,” said Heather Brewer, spokesperson for New Mexico’s Cannabis Control Division, which licenses and regulates marijuana in the state.
Many of those in line to purchase recreational marijuana at dispensaries just over the state line when sales began on April 1 were from Texas. Adults 21 and older can buy up to 2 ounces of marijuana or other products, including edibles.
In Sunland Park, N.M., nearly all of those in line on April 1 were from El Paso. El Pasoan Damian Marufo, 37, waited more than three hours outside Pecos Valley Production to be among the first to buy legal marijuana.
“You look at the line, and you look at the taxes, and you’re like, just legalize it,” he said referring to his home state of Texas, where recreational marijuana is illegal.
New Mexico sold more than $9.9 million worth of marijuana in the first week recreational marijuana was legal, according to the New Mexico Cannabis Control Division. About 61% of those sales were classified as “adult use,” or recreational, while the rest were classified as medical sales. New Mexico mandates that one-third of the marijuana supply be set aside for patients in the medical program. Medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 2007.
Dispensaries in tiny Sunland Park, which is just across the state line from El Paso, sold $259,332 worth of recreational cannabis from April 1-7. Las Cruces, just 40 miles down Interstate 10 from El Paso, made $530,410 in recreational sales.
Ruidoso, a popular weekend getaway for El Pasoans and other Texans, earned $150,870 in recreational sales, while Carlsbad, known by tourists for its caverns, sold $255,049 worth of recreational cannabis products. Hobbs, in southeast New Mexico just four miles from Texas, made $338,992.
In Anthony, N.M., a green sign with a marijuana leaf is walking distance from the state line. Several people driving past the store from Texas slowed down to look on April 2, a day after New Mexico legalized recreational marijuana. A few stopped before realizing the dispensary was not open yet.
“I’m excited about New Mexico being legalized,” said Mayra Villela, 40, who declined to say where she lives.
In the community of Anthony, which straddles the state line, the differences in state laws are stark. On one side of the state line is the town of Anthony, Texas, population about 5,000. On the other side is Anthony, New Mexico, home to just over 9,000 residents.
“I think we’re going to have more (cannabis) tourism being that we’re the gateway coming into New Mexico,” said Diana Murillo, mayor of the city of Anthony, New Mexico.
Three dispensaries have licenses in Anthony, and according to the mayor, she expects a fourth to apply for a license soon. None have opened yet, she said.
“We welcome any cannabis business to come in and conduct business in Anthony,” Murillo said.
She views recreational marijuana as a way to spur economic development and attract investment in the city.
Local governments will also receive a minority share of the state’s 12% tax on recreational marijuana, which will eventually bump up to 18%. Murillo did not know the amount of money the city of Anthony will receive from that tax, but said she did not expect to see much of it.
But knowing where New Mexico ends and Texas begins can be confusing. Beyond the one sign in town, it’s hard to tell. Even residents at a yard sale debated whether the state line started just across the street before agreeing the arroyo was the likely dividing line.
“Good luck to visitors when they come,” said Maria Palma, an Anthony, New Mexico resident. “They’re going to get into trouble.”
Some are already running into trouble with the law in Texas.
“It’s an eye opener for a lot that don’t know they’re in Texas,” said Lt. Osvaldo Gomez with the Anthony Texas Police Department.
The police department’s four officers are starting to see more people driving into Texas by mistake with recreational marijuana.
“It’s difficult for us because we’re a small department. But at the same time, we’re not going to shy away from our work. If you possess any amount of marijuana in Texas, then we’re going to have to arrest you,” Gomez said.
In Texas, possessing up to two ounces of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and up to a $2,000 fine. On top of that there’s the cost of towing and impounding a vehicle, which Gomez calls an education in state marijuana laws that comes at a “hefty price.”
His advice for those visiting New Mexico’s new dispensaries in Anthony is to, “be careful where you’re at, because sometimes you don’t even know you’re already on the Texas side. It’s not like we have a marking on the street saying you’re in Texas now.”
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