Adult-use cannabis is on its way, and potential pot entrepreneurs are preparing to open up the market.
This month industry experts and hopefuls will meet up at the Curry County Cannabis Conference in Clovis, N.M. We sat down with one of the organizers of the event, founder of prospective cannabis producer Llano Sativa, Brian Rogers.
The Paper.: Can you tell us how you got into the cannabis business?
Brian Rogers: I used to work on Wall Street. I moved back here to New Mexico last year during COVID. I was in New York City—teaching at NYU and some other places—and when all my classes moved online, it gave me the opportunity to move back to New Mexico and, potentially, start a grow if we got legalization.
You’re in the middle of applying for a producer license. How has the process been going?
I feel like [the Cannabis Control Division] is being very pragmatic about a lot of things. They’re making a lot of requests of us—as licensee applicants—but the requests aren’t really unreasonable. And for some of it, they say, “We need this, but it’s not necessarily a priority, and we can get it later.” So it does seem like they’re being reasonable as they go forward.
On the other hand—to be a little constructive about the process—there’s all kinds of rules and regulations that they’re still trying to figure out. For example, our building is in the county, and it was always an agricultural structure. It’s a big steel building, and it’s a really robust structure, but it was never licensed—it was never permitted. When we built it, it didn’t need to be. Now that we are looking to convert that facility into a commercial facility, we have to have an architect come out, draw up plans, those plans that have to be permitted—all those permits signed off on. Then we can get a certificate of occupancy. Then we can get the fire inspection. All of that has to happen, one step after another. And that’s something that, out in the country, as a farm, we’ve never had to deal with.
So this is new for us, but everyone in the state is going through the same thing. If you live in Albuquerque—especially if you’re in the city—you’re having to do the same thing, but it’s probably way worse for you. That’s one of the advantages, perhaps, to being in an area like Curry County. We have to jump through the same hoops, but I think it’s just a little bit easier for us.
Can you tell us a little bit about the upcoming Curry County Cannabis Conference?
We put together a cannabis business conference here in Curry County. It’s going to be a business-to-business marketing event with the growers and the suppliers to the growers. It’s October 26 at the Clovis Civic Center. People can get more information at newmexicograss.com. That’s also the name of the YouTube channel that we maintain where we interview lots of relevant people in the New Mexico cannabis business.
The conference will host existing medical growers and dispensaries as well as any new growers that we can identify. Guests will be speaking on different panels about different topics—data that are relevant to service providers and equipment providers and the growers. It’s for any person that’s interested in getting into this industry. It’s not a Cannabis Cup. There will be no cannabis for sale. There’s no smoking. It’s a business-to-business marketing and education conference.
Curry County seems to be mostly made up of conservative voters. It seems an unlikely place to host a conference. Are conservative attitudes about cannabis changing?
Curry County is very Republican. It’s been seen as a kind of red fortress or bastion—where the governor doesn’t even go. The City of Clovis just approved a Lodger’s Tax rebate for the conference. It just approved money to help get the cannabis industry going in Curry County.
When I talk to people and when people talk to me about their conversations with others, there does seem to be a bit of a line between attitudes being positive and negative, and it’s mostly associated with age. The older generation is a little more set in their ways. Most of the folks around here that are in that age bracket—sort of 65 and north—they don’t seem that interested in changing. Their attitudes are what they are. But a lot of younger kids—the younger generation—is much more open to it. And it does seem like less of a political issue and more of a health concern or a health issue. A lifestyle choice.
We’d like to get the governor to come to our conference and speak. On a very personal level, I’d like to thank her and highlight what a leader—what an amazing voice for cannabis—that she’s been in the state. You know she absolutely made this happen. If we could get her to come to Curry County, it would be such a great confluence of the business interest of cannabis.
When it comes to red counties, we’re trying to make them purple counties. We’re trying to blend some of these political efforts and show people that this has much more to do about commerce than it does politics. What we’re trying to get people to focus on is the growing opportunities that Curry County represents.
We’re on the eastern side of the state, about midway between Albuquerque and Las Cruces. So if you had a grow operation here, you’d be about midway between both of the two main markets. We’re also on the doorstep of the border with Texas, and if you take Amarillo and Lubbock and add up those two cities and all the other little cities in the area that are about a mile and a half away from Texico, you get about 550,000 people. Of those 550,000 people, a decent percentage of them will drive to Texico and Clovis to purchase cannabis. So if you had a grow operation here, you would be able to supply and service, potentially, a very large market of people.
There’s a lot of relatively cheap land available. We get a lot of sun and if you have a greenhouse, that equates to a lot of product. A lot of the key factors that you need, whether it’s a market to sell into, whether it’s the labor force or infrastructure or cheap land—it’s all here.
The Curry County Cannabis Conference will be held at the Clovis Civic Center (801 Schepps Blvd., Clovis, NM) on Tuesday, Oct. 26. For more information, visit newmexicograss.com.