Friday, September 29, 2023

Sunland Park Keeps Texans Happy

NM Border Town Banks On Texas Dollars


Cannabis sales on New Mexico’s border continue to rise as more and more Texans trek across the border to freely buy their stash. Sunland Park has become one of the state’s cannabis hot spots, rivaling much larger cities like Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

Albuquerque is the state’s uncontested leader in cannabis sales raking in $133,432,223—more than $100 million more than its closest competition since the adult-use market opened in April of last year.

But the runner-up, Sunland Park, is making marijuana money hand over fist, despite being a small town that has about 545,000 fewer people than Albuquerque. Like other small towns along the southern New Mexico border, Sunland Park is reaping the rewards of pot prohibition in Texas. Every day, an untold number of Texans are crossing the border to sample weed in the Land of Enchantment, and their spending power is being felt in a big way.

According to the New Mexico Cannabis Control Division (CCD), Sunland Park adult-use cannabis dispensaries have sold a whopping $30,867,725 of cannabis since April, 2022, as of July. In comparison, the closest runner-up was Las Cruces, a much larger city, which sold $30,757,358 in the same time period. In July, alone, Sunland Park sold $3,329,575 worth of recreational cannabis.

Both Sunland Park and Las Cruces have benefited from their close proximity to the Texas border. Our neighbors to the south have not legalized adult-use cannabis, and there doesn’t seem to be any real political pressure to do so in the near future. The state does have a medical cannabis program, but its qualifying conditions are limited and patients can only purchase low-THC products.

Unsurprisingly, Texans make up a very large portion of clients shopping at Sunland Park’s dispensaries. The town is mere minutes from the border, and residents from both states tend to hop back and forth between the two without much thought.

“I don’t consider it too far or too inconvenient,” says El Paso, Texas, resident Victor Rodriguez.

Rodriguez lives in Northeast El Paso and drives less than 30 minutes to reach Everest Apothecary in Sunland Park. He said he makes the trip every two weeks.

“They are easy going and very helpful,” he said. “Everest answered whatever questions I could think to ask.”

Surprisingly, Rodriguez said he’d still shop for cannabis at the Sunland Park Everest location—even if the drug were legalized for adult-use sales in Texas.

“But it would be nice if Texas was a legal state,” he said.

Similarly, another El Pasoan, Jacob Ramos, said he’d keep shopping in Sunland Park if Texas chose to legalize.

“I would still go if it were legal in Texas just because Ultra Health is a wonderful and reliable place to shop,” he said. “The trip is not much of an inconvenience. It seems far, but it’s only a 30-minute drive from my home with traffic.”

Customer service and the brand loyalty it creates means New Mexico dispensaries will already have an edge should Texas legalize. That means small towns like Sunland Park can likely expect to continue seeing Texans at their cash registers.

Not everyone would be willing to make the trip, though.

“No, I would not need to travel if it was legal in Texas,” says El Paso resident Elizabeth Leith, who shops at Ultra Health once a month. “I truly feel that Texas will be the very last state to ever legalize, which is as backward as you can get.”

Texas residents came very close to seeing serious cannabis reform earlier this year, but the state’s lawmakers dropped the ball.

In April, the Texas House unanimously passed a decriminalization bill that would have removed legal penalties for possessing up to an ounce of pot. Anyone caught with this amount would be subject to a fine up to $500, but they wouldn’t be arrested.

In the same month, the House also voted in favor of a bill that would have expanded the state’s medical cannabis program to allow patients suffering from chronic pain.

Both bills were dumped by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who refused to include them in the Senate agenda.

But that just means more money for New Mexico cannabis retailers on the border. Although Texas lawmakers are dead set against legalizing cannabis, Texas voters are clearly on the side of reform.

A February Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston poll found that 82 percent of Texans were in favor of legalizing medical cannabis—including 93 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of Independents and 73 percent of Republicans. The poll also found that 67 percent of Texans are in favor of legalizing recreational cannabis for adults over 21—including 80 percent of Democrats, 66 percent of Independents and 55 percent of Republicans.

Every person The Rolling Paper. spoke to said the same thing: Weed isn’t demonized in the Lone Star state.

“I think that marijuana usage is not only accepted in El Paso—it’s a non-issue with most people,” says Leith. “Even those who don't smoke have the attitude of, ‘Hey, it doesn’t bother me.’”

“Pot seems widely accepted by the other Texans I’ve talked to,” says Ramos. “I’ve even heard of police officers being very tolerant of it.”

In 2019 the Texas Department of Public Safety instructed its officers to issue citations to people who are found to be in possession of a misdemeanor amount of weed instead of locking them up. Since that time, low-level pot busts have dropped by more than half. When New Mexico legalized marijuana last year, the department said it had no plans to change its policy.

“People here by the border feel it’s almost legal anyway,” says Rodriguez.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here