Texans going to New Mexico for Weed
Texans going to New Mexico for Weed

Forget Delta-8 THC, Texans Crossing the Border into New Mexico to Buy Weed is a Big Business

Texas is the #1 buyer of Delta-8 THC from hemp but also a lucrative side hustle for New Mexico

Posted by:
Joseph Billions on Tuesday Jan 30, 2024

New Mexico selling cannabis to texas people

Situated in a desert valley along the Rio Grande in New Mexico, Sunland Park has historically lacked essential amenities for its roughly 17,000 residents. The city's landscape was characterized by the absence of a major grocery store, limited shopping options, and a need for more attractions. The only thing to point to is the racetrack casino or a journey to the imposing Cristo Del Rey cross atop a nearby mountain.


Economic Impact and Tax Revenue

However, for El Paso residents just across the state line in Texas, Sunland Park has recently become a popular destination, and the driving force behind this trend is marijuana. Cars bearing Texas plates regularly converge on the numerous cannabis dispensaries that have emerged since New Mexico legalized recreational sales in 2022.


These dispensaries, some featuring a drive-through and others offering discounts on "Texas Tuesday," have turned Sunland Park into a regular hotspot for Texans seeking cannabis products.


The legalization of marijuana in New Mexico has propelled Sunland Park to the forefront of the nation's thriving marijuana towns. Dispensaries now dominate previously vacant storefronts, empty strip malls, and the forsaken structures of former warehouses and car dealerships, significantly transforming the cityscape.

New Mexico sold nearly $300 million in cannabis and has a population of only 2.1 millon people!

Following legalization in New Mexico, Sunland Park, a bedroom community nestled in a landscape of rock and sand with an aging industrial zone, swiftly ascended into the top echelons of the nation's marijuana boom towns. This transformation occurred practically overnight, a phenomenon observed in several border areas with divergent marijuana laws.


Referred to by some locals as the "Dubai of marijuana" due to substantial new investments and alternatively dubbed "Little Amsterdam," the city witnessed a rapid shift, drawing mixed reactions from its residents.

Social and Cultural Shifts

Teresa Rios, a 58-year-old resident of Sunland Park for two decades, expressed concern about the rapid changes, lamenting the closure of familiar places like her preferred nail salon.

Despite the proliferation of cannabis sellers, Rios yearns for more diversified establishments such as a quality store, a pharmacy, and a conveniently located gas station. Instead, the cityscape is now dominated by cannabis-related businesses.


Dispensaries have taken over empty storefronts, vacant strip malls, and the abandoned structures of former warehouses and car dealerships. State records indicate that more dispensaries are on the horizon, with green balloon figures along the roadside advertising "Marijuana" in bold letters.


Sunland Park, with nearly $4 million in sales in November alone, is second only to Albuquerque in recreational marijuana sales across New Mexico, a city many times its size. The proximity to Texas, particularly El Paso, with a population approaching 700,000 just over the state line, significantly contributes to Sunland Park's thriving cannabis market.


Miguel Martinez, co-owner of the dispensary Besos, explained the strategic decision to set up shop in Sunland Park. Despite being smaller than Albuquerque, El Paso's substantial population made it an attractive location. Michael Birkelbach is converting a one-story house into a small distillery for sotol, a spirit akin to tequila derived from a desert plant.


Navigating the legal complexities for Texans, Martinez acknowledged the frequent inquiries about the legality of their products in Texas. He clarified that while it's illegal in Texas, he has no control over customers' actions outside the store.


Standing by a display of green cannabis, surrounded by screens offering discounts for Texans, Martinez acknowledged the unique challenges the influx of out-of-state customers presented.


Border Town Dynamics and Policy Differences

Situated on the border with Mexico, Sunland Park becomes a microcosm of the impact of distant lawmakers' decisions, extending beyond just marijuana policies. Texas Governor Greg Abbott's deployment of National Guard troops and concertina wire along the border with Mexico has drawn attention to the town.


The extension of this effort to the Texas-New Mexico state line accentuates the stark policy differences, not only on immigration but also on issues like abortion. The state border acts as a notable division on the subject of abortion, with the practice being largely illegal in Texas.


However, billboards in El Paso promote abortion services available in Sunland Park and nearby Las Cruces, creating a noticeable contrast. Sunland Park, dubbed by some locals as the "Dubai of marijuana" or "Little Amsterdam," has become a focal point for cannabis-related investments, with dispensaries proliferating.


Texas law enforcement has not actively intervened in preventing women from seeking abortions in New Mexico or curbing the flow of marijuana from Sunland Park to Texas. Concerns about Texans bringing marijuana back from New Mexico have diminished among residents, with a rising number of young people carrying vape cartridges to schools in El Paso becoming a local worry.


Similar border towns have experienced thriving marijuana economies, while the legalization in New Mexico has impacted neighboring areas differently. However, the overall landscape is changing as more states, including Ohio, embrace legal recreational marijuana sales.


Urban Development and Revitalization

Despite the absence of signs of legalization in Texas, new dispensaries continue to open in Sunland Park, showcasing the evolving dynamics of the marijuana industry in the region. Workers are even preparing the city's first legal consumption site, resembling Amsterdam's.


They look to cater to Texans who wish to stay and smoke, considering public or in-car consumption of marijuana is illegal in New Mexico. Industry experts acknowledge the transient nature of these conditions, but for now, the marijuana boom in Sunland Park persists.


For now, Texans primarily return home without engaging much in recreational tourism in Sunland Park, as reported by Robert Ardovino, the owner of a local restaurant offering vintage Spartan trailers for overnight stays. Ardovino is considering opening a dispensary and possibly a consumption site in the future.


Despite limited recreational tourism, the marijuana boom has increased tax revenue, contributing approximately $1.3 million to the city's budget of around $12 million this fiscal year.


During a recent drive through Sunland Park, City Manager Mario Juarez-Infante highlighted ongoing developments, including the renovation of a park that had been vacant for two decades and the relocation of City Hall. The growth of Sunland Park is attributed not only to the cannabis industry but also to factors such as a new rail yard north of the city and El Paso's westward expansion.


Mayor Javier Perea emphasized that cannabis is just a small part of a broader vision for the city. It has historically dealt with illicit drug and migrant smuggling, especially in the Anapra neighborhood along the Rio Grande.


Former residents like Blasa Zapata, now a manager at a local marijuana dispensary, recall the challenges faced by the community, with many residents facing difficult lives, incarceration, or death.


Despite the transformation, there are signs of development even in the Anapra neighborhood, as investors from El Paso contribute to the area's revitalization. Construction projects, such as Michael Birkelbach's transformation of a one-story house into a small sotol distillery, showcase the evolving landscape.


Birkelbach chose Sunland Park due to favorable local distribution regulations for spirits in New Mexico and the proximity to Texas. The unique mix of marijuana businesses and other ventures reflects the changing dynamics in Sunland Park, with a view of Texas just down the road.





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