Gwynne Ann Unruh is an award-winning reporter formerly of the Alamosa Valley Courier, an independent paper in southern Colorado. She covers the environment for The Paper.

AHL Year Round Garden Supply

 A dream has finally come true for Dr. Hilda L. Chavez of Akeso Botanicals on the Las Cruces West Mesa, and it’s been a very long journey. As a naturopathic doctor she has had a private practice for over 40 years with an emphasis on herbal medicine, the proper use of cannabis and nutrition. “When the New Mexico Department of Health opened up the compassionate program, I decided that I would focus on cannabis and nutrition,” Chavez told The Paper. That was 15 years ago. Since then, Chavez has tried to get a license through the Department of Health with one obstruction after another. 

“I’ve been dispensing herbal medicine and CBD medicine for 15 years; no THC,” Chavez said. “I had classes to teach patients how to make their own medicines and they would go buy it at the dispensary. I could never dispense it because I couldn’t get a license. I continued to educate the community about the beneficial effects of cannabis without ever having to smoke it.”

Chavez started to apply for a manufacturing license in November of 2020, the only license available at the time with the Department of Health. “It took almost a year for them to do absolutely nothing. It was the same thing for 15 years. They picked certain people to get the licenses and they completely forgot about southern New Mexico. We have been so underserved here.”

When the Cannabis Control Division took over, the doors swung wide open for her. “I’m 67 years old and I never thought it would happen. What took 15 years to get nowhere, took 150 days to get three licenses. And now I have been blessed with this vertical license. The universe is definitely behind me this time around. I feel like I’m living in a dream.”

Chavez said this what she has been training for her whole life. “We need women in this industry; feminine energy in the healing arts needs to be present.” She said there are all kinds of opportunities for the women to get into the industry, including adjunct businesses that serve the medical cannabis community such as banking, accounting, security, construction, electrical, greenhouse, supplies and equipment.

“Every day I get calls from young men who want to apply for a job. They’ve been bud tenders or growers and I don’t get any calls from women. None. None. None!”

Chavez has a commercial greenhouse facility and uses the Japanese business model called Keiretsu. “We have 10 license holders in this model, and we contracted a master grower to grow for us in the greenhouse. He does everything and that takes a whole lot of stress off of me.” Chavez is ready to open her dispensary as soon as they get flower. “I get the flower and I can sell it wholesale or I can sell it retail. I’m going to do both.”

She believes Baby Boomers are not so much interested in getting high as they just want to have a quality of life. They want to have a pain-free life. And cannabis offers that opportunity without becoming addicted to opioids.

Chavez wants her patients to be responsible and educated. “I want them to know that there are other ways to be well, that you don’t have to take prescription drugs and become an opioid addict. We are promoting health and healing. We’re promoting using the sacred medicine in forms that are healthy such as edibles and topicals.”