The countdown to April 1 and the opening of the New Mexico adult-use cannabis market has begun. All of New Mexico’s pot fans are tucked in their beds, too excited to sleep, dreams of sugarplum joints and bongs waiting in the wings. The rest of this year’s holidays might as well give up and sit this one out, because Adult-Use Day will be bigger than all of them.
Cannabis technically became legal last June when the Cannabis Regulation Act (CRA) officially went into effect, but stores haven’t been allowed to sell or gift the drug. The opening of the retail market will be the realization of a yearslong dream for advocates. Here’s what you need to know before the big day:
Adult-use cannabis will be available for sale to anyone over the age of 21. Medical cannabis will still be available to anyone enrolled in the Medical Cannabis Program, regardless of age.
Adult-use buyers will be limited to purchasing up to two ounces, 16 grams of extract and 800mg of edibles in a single day. Those limits also apply to how much cannabis can be transported at a time. There is no limit to how much cannabis product can be stored at a residence, however.
Users can smoke cannabis on their own property but will also be able to smoke it in designated cannabis consumption areas that have been licensed specifically for the purpose.
It isn’t clear if any cannabis bars will be opening just yet, but the CRA does allow for them, so expect to finally live out the dream that potheads have been nursing for ages. At its core, cannabis is a social drug. People love the ritual of smoking weed with a group of friends and sharing the experience of getting high together.
Cannabis consumption areas mark a turning point for legalization paradigms. While the drug is legal in many places, there continues to be a stigma around openly consuming it in public. In most places, leaders are fine with enabling a market that pumps spare dollars into the economy but draw the line at letting anyone actually see the results. Public consumption areas will ultimately make the greatest impression on public attitudes toward pot users.
Every person over the age of 21 is allowed to cultivate up to six cannabis plants in their own home with a limit of 12 plants per household. These plants are to be for personal use and cannot be sold or used for bartering.
The CRA does allow individuals to gift cannabis to other individuals over the age of 21, however, as long as there is no financial consideration and the amount gifted is less than the legal purchasing limits.
Plants can be transported when the owner is changing residences or taking the plants to a testing or manufacturing site, but only six plants can be transported at a time in this manner.
Individuals are also allowed to manufacture their own marijuana extracts as long as it is done using nonvolatile solvents, alcohol, carbon dioxide or solvent-free substances.
The taxes for cannabis sales are a little steep compared to other consumer goods, and they are scheduled to rise every year until 2030. Consumers will have to pay the regular sales tax of eight percent with an additional 12 percent excise tax. Every year on July 1 for the next seven years, the excise tax will rise one percent, capping out at 18 percent in 2030.
Medical cannabis purchases are exempt from the tax. In December, a state judge ruled that medical cannabis purchase limits would remain in place after a patient filed a lawsuit to raise the limits to match those laid out for adult-use consumers. Medical cannabis laws limit patients to purchasing only eight ounces of dried flower in a rolling three-month period. Since that rule remains in place, patients who exceed those limits will have to purchase adult-use marijuana and pay the tax just like everybody else.
Keep in mind that nothing in the CRA protects cannabis users from being discriminated against in the workplace. The law specifically states that legalization does not restrict an employer’s ability to prohibit or take an “adverse employment action” against an employee for coming to work under the influence of cannabis or using cannabis on the job.
The law also protects an employer’s right to uphold a zero-tolerance drug policy in line with federal guidelines, meaning employers will still be able to deny applicants who test positive for cannabis use.
Be prepared for shortages and what New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department Superintendent Linda Trujillo called the “Krispy Kreme effect.” Whenever a Krispy Kreme opens up in a brand new market, so many people rush to try it out that they create an initial shortage. The demand is much, much higher in the first days of a Krispy Kreme opening than they will ever be again.
Trujillo warned that a similar phenomenon happens whenever a state starts selling adult-use cannabis. The Cannabis Control Division and industry producers have been working hard to mitigate potential shortages, but it likely will only serve to push back the inevitable.
So prepare to wait in long lines and possibly even miss out on any first-day purchases. But don’t worry. The demand will eventually level out once the initial novelty wears off, and buying weed will become as uneventful an errand as picking up toilet paper.
Medical cannabis patients shouldn’t have to worry about these shortages, thankfully, as state regulations require adult-use cannabis sellers to withhold a portion of their supply specifically for medical cannabis sales. That means even if recreational cannabis runs out, there will still be enough medical cannabis on-hand for patient access.