New Mexico

On January 23, House Bill 160, the Cannabis Regulation Act, was introduced on the New Mexico House floor. The bill is being sponsored by Representatives Javier Martinez and Antonio Maestas and creates a regulated, responsible system of approved licensees developed by the New Mexico state Regulation and Licensing Department. If Bill 160 passes, it would grant commercial sales of recreational cannabis starting in 2022.

While there’s still a way to go before a final decision is heard, polling last year determined that the majority of New Mexico residents would be in favor of legalization.

In a press release issued by New Mexico House Democrats, they stated, “a statewide poll conducted in November 2019 found that 73 percent of New Mexicans support cannabis legalization. House Bill 160 will be heard next in House Consumer and Public Affair Committee and then in the House Judiciary Committee.”

In a town of about two-dozen dispensaries, most of whom all gleaning a good bit of their income from out-of-state visitors, this brings up a question of how other states legalizing recreational cannabis use will effect Trinidad. While many believe this will most likely impact local dispensaries, dispensaries have been aware of this likelihood for some time and some are already getting ready for that shift.

“We’re trying to focus more on local business because we understand that in a town of 8,000 and in a town of at least 25 dispensaries, we have to focus on what we’ve got in our front yard,” said Faragosi Farm manager Jerrica Lamden. “We want to cater toward the locals and do things that are community-involved.”

Dispensaries in Trinidad aren’t the only ones aware of the near future possibility of cannabis legalization in other states and the possible effects to local economy. The City of Trinidad is also focusing on developing themselves to draw in tourists to spend money in other ways.

“The City of Trinidad is primarily looking towards tourism and outdoor recreation as our next economic drivers,” said Trinidad Economic Development Coordinator Wally Wallace, “and I do think that is the smartest approach considering Colorado’s success as a state in these industries and Trinidad’s location on the I-25 corridor.”

“I would like to see more resort amenities and tourist activities,” Wallace explained, “like a soaking hot tub spa, massage centers, a brewery, a zip line park, a motocross and ATV course, an equestrian center and, most of all, a LOT MORE hiking and bicycling trails. I love Trinidad the way it is and I never want to see it turn into a major metropolitan community, but in Colorado tourism is king, and we should really be looking for creative ways to tap into that industry.”

As the city develops it’s outdoor recreation potential, Wallace said it would also be important to continue to embrace the economic benefit of cannabis and be proactive in keeping Colorado the top state for cannabis tourism.

“Our city leaders would be wise to continue leading the way in cannabis normalization and embracing it as an economic driver,” Wallace said. “This month cannabis hospitality businesses have become legalized and regulated by the State of Colorado. These new policies are the first of their kind and would allow for the opening of state regulated cannabis clubs, cafes, hotels and delivery services. By doing this, the state government is taking steps to keep Colorado as the top cannabis tourism destination in the country.”

But the choice to opt-in to the state’s cannabis hospitality programs is up to the city council to decide and delaying a decision could mean loosing an advantage, said Wallace.

“I do fear that the longer they wait to address these policies the harder it will be for us to establish a competitive edge in cannabis hospitality and tourism,” said Wallace.

With the emerging outdoor recreation industry in Trinidad, there is also the potential that the town could actually improve the industry Wallace explained.

“Our current strengths as a cannabis destination is the number of dispensaries we have, their proximity to each other, and the fact that we’re in Colorado,” said Wallace. “However these features that make us a “unique” destination I’m afraid also make it harder for our cannabis businesses to compete against each other. The biggest weakness Trinidad has as a cannabis destination town is our lack of things for people to do when they do come here before and after they purchase marijuana.”

“A 2016 study by Harris Group found that 72 percent of millennials prefer to spend their money on experiences over material things,” Wallace said. “So for Trinidad to appeal to that age group we need to continue creating meaningful experiences for them to enjoy while they are here.”

This study applies to this age group regardless if the individuals use cannabis or not. While Wallace stated that legalizing cannabis hospitality would be a step in the right direction, he expressed that that was only one step in securing the cannabis industry and the economic health of the city.

Another factor playing into Trinidad maintaining success in the cannabis industry is the simple fact that Colorado has better perfected the process, producing a high-end product and other states are aware of this.

“Medical patients have their card in New Mexico and come up here all the time because our quality is better,” said Lamden. “I think that gives Colorado, in general, the upper hand.”

While determining how Trinidad will fare should New Mexico or other states legalize recreational cannabis may be difficult, it’s fair to say efforts are being made to reduce negative economic impact as much as possible.

Could cannabis hospitality businesses help Trinidad keep it’s competitive edge?

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