Adult-use cannabis sales become legal in New Mexico April 1, and towns around the East Mountains and Estancia Valley are readying for the change.

The Cannabis Regulation Act, passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor last year, called for sales of adult-use cannabis to begin no later than April 1. The new industry is projected to generate $300 million annually in sales, create 11,000 jobs and bring in $50 million in state revenue in the first year.

The Cannabis Control Division of the Regulation and Licensing Department (CCD) provided guidance for consumers to safely participate in this new market.

“New Mexicans are excited and ready to enjoy high-quality, never-before-available, legal cannabis products,” said Regulation and Licensing Department Superintendent Linda Trujillo, “and we are excited to see doors opening to consumers tomorrow for the first time. However, it is important that everyone knows the rules so that consumption in our state is always safe and responsible.”

Smoking cannabis in public is prohibited and is punishable with a citation and a fine up to $50. Public consumption of any kind, including edibles, is prohibited. The best place to smoke or consume cannabis is in homes or other private spaces, the CCD said.

A consumer can purchase up to 2 ounces of cannabis, 16 mg of concentrate and 800 mg of edibles at one time. The is the same amount that a consumer can legally possess in public. There is no weekly or monthly limit to how much a consumer can purchase. However, any amount of cannabis above the legal possession limits must be stored in a private residence out of public view.

To date, 151 retail licenses have been issued by the state, covering nearly 250 locations. However, not all locations will be open on April 1. The CCD encourages consumers to do their research online and find a retailer near them that is open for business. The CCD also advises anyone buying cannabis to consume responsibly.

“Start low and go slow,” said CCD director Kristen Thomson, adding, “Even more importantly, though, New Mexicans must remember not to drive after consuming cannabis. Driving under the influence puts consumers and others on the road at risk. Law enforcement will be doing their job to keep roads safe. We encourage anyone who plans to consume to have a designated driver or use a taxi or ride-share service.”

A press release from the Department of Public Safety said that law enforcement officers will be on the lookout for impaired drivers.

New Mexico State Police spokesman Mark Soriano said that the state’s Implied Consent Act means that a driver is subject to “chemical tests of his breath or blood or both.” Law enforcement officers are “not certified to do a blood draw,” he said. “Officers take the defendant to the hospital for a blood draw where a license phlebotomist performs the blood draw.”

In the East Mountains and Estancia Valley, the towns of Tijeras, Edgewood, Moriarty and Estancia have cannabis ordinances in place as per the state’s recommendation.

“If people want to consume cannabis it’s a whole lot of their business and not mine,” said Tijeras Mayor Jake Bruton, adding, “It’s a personal preference, similar to alcohol.” He said it is important to keep it out of the hands of children and that he didn’t have any strong feelings against it.

Bruton said he thought New Mexico was “a little late to the game” and could have benefited already from a strong economic boost. Currently cannabis is legal in Arizona, Colorado and Mexico, with Texas following close behind New Mexico he said. “We will be churning our own dollars.”

In Tijeras, they currently do not have any new cannabis business licenses and they have a limited amount of real estate available for any such businesses.

Bruton said the village “jumped out of the gate on the ordinances and that they were explicitly as open as possible.” He said they didn’t want to limit the opportunity of the potential businesses coming into the area and wanted to treat them as they would all other businesses.

The town of Edgewood held meetings for public input on cannabis ordinances and, according to Mayor Audrey Jaramillo, that input was used to create the ordinances.

For example, concerns about odor control, distance requirements, drive-up businesses and clusters of cannabis businesses were all taken into consideration and some were shared by the town commission, she said. “We want to look out for the safety and well-being of everyone in the town.”

Jaramillo said the town already has three commercial outlets for adult-use cannabis. Also, she said, Edgewood has two medical dispensaries which are currently going through the application process for an “Edgewood cannabis license” for retail sales of recreational cannabis.

She said the town has also limited one business per 2,000 people. She said according to the 2020 census there are approximately 6,000 in Edgewood which would allow for three recreational outlets in town.

She said Edgewood is also expecting an economic boost in increased tax revenue.

Estancia Mayor Nathan Dial said “I personally have no issues with cannabis. As mayor, I am open to it.” He said right now the town has one cannabis grower and there has been “a little bit of interest in the community.” He said one business is converting from medical cannabis to offer recreational as well.

“Until its addressed at the federal level, it will always be a pain in the neck,” Dial said. He also said the town would have appreciated more guidance from the state in respect to creating the ordinances for cannabis.

Estancia held two public hearings to get public input for the ordinances. He said the main concerns were regulated hours, keeping it away from kids and no open-air consumption. Estancia will have no Sunday sales, no open-air consumption and distance requirements.

He said he was also concerned about the enforcement of the ordinances in Torrance County since the area has multiple jurisdiction with both local police and county law enforcement. He said the towns in Torrance County tried to create similar ordinances to help address that concern.

Moriarty Mayor Ted Hart said, “I think any legal business should have a spot. We need to find areas for them whether we like it or not.” He said a couple of new cannabis businesses were coming to Moriarty.

He said the town’s first public hearing about the cannabis ordinances had a big turnout and that they incorporated community suggestions into their ordinances. He said the state didn’t help them with the ordinances or offer a lot of guidance, adding, “Hopefully we did it right.”

Mountainair Mayor Peter Nieto said so far no one has applied for any cannabis business licenses there. He said the town is planning to look at ordinances from neighboring communities so they can pass one.

According to the State Police, in 2021, the Department of Public Safety got funding from legislators to train State Police in the Drug Recognition Expert certification program.

The program is designed to teach officers how to determine if a driver is operating their vehicle while impaired by drugs and/or alcohol. Officers who are trained through the Drug Recognition Expert program are trained to evaluate signs of impairment rather than relying on the smell of cannabis.

Cannabis has a measurable physiological effects that impair drivers including delayed or decreased reaction time, decreased short-term memory, poor hand-eye coordination, lack of concentration, and a decreased perception of time and distance, according to State Police.

“New Mexico State Police are committed to your safety. If you choose to drink or use cannabis, remember there is no acceptable reason to drive under the influence,” said Chief Tim Johnson.