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The Belen City Council has passed an ordinance that freezes approvals for new cannabis licenses. City leaders say there may be too many companies already operating within city limits.

Mayor Robert Noblin says he’s concerned that an influx of cannabis stores may not be sustainable in the small town. “We do not want to fill vacant buildings, only to have them vacant again within months due to an abundance of supply and little demand,” he wrote in a statement.

But Mayor Pro Tem Danny Bernal says cannabis companies are helping the city grow. “They’re renovating vacant buildings within the city and it would be awesome to open up because it’s vacant buildings here in Belen,” Bernal told KRQE. Bernal says the city’s collected around $16,000 in gross receipts tax since 2021.

Noblin says that most of those taxes go to the state and not the city. He says the city has collected an average of around $3,300 a month in cannabis taxes.

Belen currently has three active dispensaries and four waiting on approval.

Sunland Park Sees Profits

A small border town in New Mexico is reaping the benefits of being within driving distance of thousands of Texas residents.

Sunland Park only has around 17,000 residents, but it boasts three active dispensaries. According to Albuquerque Journal, the town has collected at least $10 million in cannabis profits since the adult-use market opened its doors in April.

Much of that success can be attributed to Texas patrons who are forced to cross into New Mexico to buy cannabis. Texas marijuana policies are famously draconian, and cannabis is illegal in most of the state. Butting right up against Sunland Park is El Paso, a city with a larger population than Albuquerque.

Sunland Park’s cannabis sales are steadily rising. In October it gained $1.53 million. To compare, Santa Fe gained $1.84 million in the same month. It’s reported that nearly 30 percent of all state sales occur in border towns.

Lawmakers Rush To Introduce SAFE Plus

Key federal legislators have been meeting to discuss finalizing the so-called SAFE Plus legislative package before the lame duck session ends.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) recently met with Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and the lead sponsors of the SAFE Banking Act, Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Steve Daines (R-MT) as well as other key lawmakers to discuss SAFE Plus.

Although the legislative package has not been revealed yet, those close to the bill say it will include protections for banks to work with cannabis companies and expungements for prior cannabis offenders.

According to Politico the discussions have been tense, because some key lawmakers refuse to accept legislation that would benefit cannabis companies without offering equitable justice reform.