By Meredith Hughes
A burst of increased activity at the eastern end of the former Kim Jew property at 4604 Corrales Road is evidence that Southwest Organic Producers (SWOP), which first began business in 2009 selling medical marijuana, is opening a retail cannabis dispensary in Corrales as soon as this month.
The store is opening at the corner of Corrales Road and Rincon Road, just north of Perea’s restaurant. A company employee at its first Albuquerque retail location on Montgomery, just east of Interstate 25, said “furniture, including display cases” were being bought for the Corrales site.
Spencer Komadina, one of the project’s partners, said the New Mexico Department of Health was expected to do its inspection the week of December 13, and that the shop would then hold its soft open, with a grand opening following not far behind. The Corrales outlet will immediately benefit from what another partner, Aaron Brogdon, has described as “better quality product,” grown right in Corrales. The Komadina property at 379 Camino de Corrales del Norte has three greenhouses, as well as a “head house,” or nursery, for new plants.
The SWOP outlet has been a long time in coming. Although the site development plan application was approved by the Village Planning and Zoning Commission on November 20, 2019, assorted hoops required jumping through, or what P&Z Administrator Laurie Stout described soon thereafter as “applicable state and federal agencies on their specific requirements.” At that time, a long-time Corrales cannabis grower, Tom Murray, explained to P&Z prior to their positive ruling that he was “the first cannabis producer in Corrales, and one of the first four in New Mexico.”
Murray emphasized the gross receipts coming to the Village via a retail outlet would be based on an estimated “$4.2 million of revenue that will originate through that point of sale and will include a good portion of customers outside of the village.” Komadina pointed out that the retail outlet would likely involve three to four employees, with an office for human resources above the store front. He added that “all manufactured products would be made outside Corrales by six extraction companies” the group works with.
At the moment SWOP pays rent to Kim Jew, still the building’s owner, but the group has first refusal on any upcoming purchase of the place. Komadina said SWOP hopes to own the property within a year or so. The interest by New Mexicans in medical cannabis continues to grow. As of May 31, 2020, New Mexico had 94,042 registered Medical Cannabis Program card holders, with Sandoval County at 6,514, and Bernalillo, 30,562. By November 30, 2020, 101,770 patients were registered, 7,281 in Sandoval County, and 33,976 in Bernalillo County.
Across the state, by far the biggest number of patients were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), jumping from 48,010 to 54,391 by the end of November. People experiencing “severe chronic pain,”for which they sought cannabis, increased to 31,956 from 29,862. While a bill to legalize recreational cannabis in New Mexico was shot down in February of last year in the N.M. Legislature, signs indicate this time around the bill will have greater support.
According to a report by Ultra Health, the largest marijuana seller in New Mexico, the state “is now landlocked between three states with more flexible cannabis policies than its own. Legalization in Arizona is likely to create greater momentum surrounding legalization of cannabis for adult use in New Mexico during the 2021 Legislative Session.”
“New Mexico’s medical and adult-use cannabis market is estimated to generate $600 million in consumer sales and $90 to $100 million in recurring tax revenue. The path to a legalization market of such size will require legislators and regulators to work collectively to create a robust cannabis model.”
In addition, again according to Ultra Health, “medical marijuana sales in New Mexico in the third quarter exceeded the same period in 2019 by 62 percent. New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program of 34 licensed producers reported $55 million in cannabis sales in 2020, a jump of $21 million.” Earlier this month, the United Nations’ Commission for Narcotic Drugs voted to remove cannabis from its list of most dangerous drugs, and a floor vote was held in the U.S. House of Representatives December 4 on the MORE Act, (Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act). The bill officially passed by a vote of 228-164. Next stop, the U.S. Senate.
According to the official House description, “This bill decriminalizes marijuana. And specifically, it removes marijuana from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act and eliminates criminal penalties for an individual who manufactures, distributes, or possesses marijuana.”
“The bill also makes other changes, including the following:
• replaces statutory references to marijuana and marihuana with cannabis,
• requires the Bureau of Labor Statistics to regularly publish demographic data on cannabis business owners and employees,
• establishes a trust fund to support various programs and services for individuals and businesses in communities impacted by the war on drugs,
• imposes a 5 percent tax on cannabis products and requires revenues to be deposited into the trust fund,
• makes Small Business Administration loans and services available to entities that are cannabis-related legitimate businesses or service providers,
• prohibits the denial of federal public benefits to a person on the basis of certain cannabis-related conduct or convictions,
• prohibits the denial of benefits and protections under immigration laws on the basis of a cannabis-related event (e.g., conduct or a conviction),
• establishes a process to expunge convictions and conduct sentencing review hearings related to federal cannabis offenses, and
• directs the Government Accountability Office to study the societal impact of cannabis legalization.”