There Are Now More Cannabis Dispensaries Than Liquor Stores in Albuquerque

But cannabis businesses still have to fight like hell to succeed.

The city of Albuquerque now has more cannabis dispensaries than liquor stores open, KRQE News reports. New Mexico became the 18th state to legalize adult-use cannabis in 2021. They were the fifth to do so through the legislative process versus voter initiative. The law went into effect on June 29, 2021, making the announcement regarding cannabis shops news almost a year after marijuana became legal. However, the high number of stores is causing conflict between owners and turning local industry members against one another in a fight to stay alive. 

“We were coming down to our very last, you know, of our financial security. And just in time we opened up and it’s, it’s been a blessing,” Andre Galarza told KRQE News about his family-owned cannabis brick-and-mortar, 505 Farms, which opened on Lomas Boulevard in December 2022. “We literally put our entire retirement, mine and hers. And we are literally what you call all in, like all in,” Galarza continued. Because their store is a cannabis microbusiness, they can only grow 200 plants at a time. “We only support New Mexico grown, New Mexico extracted, New Mexico business, period,” Galarza stressed to KRQE News.

While, in the ever-present battle between booze-hounds and potheads, this news from New Mexico is a win for the stoners, it doesn’t mean that starting a cannabis business in New Mexico has been easy. Like any other legal state (read about the mass exodus from California), marijuana shops must deal with extensive red tape and ongoing hurdles to survive in this cut-throat industry. 

With more cannabis stores open than alcohol stores, Galarza and everyone else must deal with the competition in an industry flooded with players. The small business owner recently learned that an even bigger dispensary, ReLeaf Cannabis Company, is set to move two blocks away from 505 Farms into a former car lot.

Previously, Albuquerque denied the ReLeaf Cannabis Company the Lomas Boulevard location, as it was within 600 feet of 505 Farms, which broke a rule. However, along with a handful of other cannabis business owners on the street, ReLeaf Cannabis Company demanded the zoning hearing examiner make an exception to the rule and attended the hearing to stand up for themselves and make a case. ReLeaf Cannabis Company made the case that by using a vacant old car lot, they would be upgrading and improving Albuquerque. “We would be obviously putting back into it – into the community, redeveloping this area. They also employ local folks,” Johnn Osborn, a local cannabis attorney, explained, according to KRQE News.  

It worked. Two weeks later, Galarza learned that Releaf Cannabis Company was cleared to set up shop nearby. However, as an insight into the ongoing litigation the high number of stores is driving, Galarza is currently working on appealing the decision. The city of Albuquerque is now wading through twenty other requests for exemptions to the 600-foot rule, fourteen of which they have granted, showing that, while it might create conflict between business owners, the New Mexico cannabis industry is sailing at full speed ahead. “The number of stores, the number of licenses statewide, has far exceeded even the most optimistic projections we had when we were looking at what we thought this might be before the law passed,” says Pat Davis, City Council President and co-founder of Weeds Cannabis Consulting Service, KRQE reports. 

So, while this may be good news for the cannabis industry on a large picture, smaller business owners such as 505 Farms fear they will have to shut down as the big guys take over. “If they were to open up next door, we’re pretty much done,” Galarza told KRQE. “I mean, a small business such as myself, can’t battle something that big, right? It’s not possible. Yeah, there’s no sleep. I mean, it’s terrifying.”

The High Times Cannabis Cup New Mexico: People’s Choice Edition is currently underway. A live awards show is scheduled for September 4 at the Rio Rancho Events Center in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. This event will be the first-ever competition that is open to the New Mexico public and will see the largest pool of judges in history. This is the time and place to sample products with judges who will provide feedback on the entries. Judge kits are currently available until they are sold out.

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