The big impact of cannabis on border towns

Since its founding in 1862, the city of Trinidad, CO has steadily traversed identities and economies reasons to be. The discovery of rich coal deposits in the rugged mountains along the Santa Fe Trail between Denver and New Mexico meant that the frontier village was originally a mining town (and the workings of mining conglomerates meant that Trinidad was also a company town). After the mines slowed down and closed, between the 1960s and 2010s, the successful (and controversial) practice of a single surgeon earned Trinidad the unofficial title of “the sex reassignment capital of the United States”. In the era of cannabis legalization, another cycle of boom and bust has occurred in Trinidad: a cannabis “frontier town” that no longer exists.


Home to around 8,300 people, Trinidad saw dozens of cannabis stores open after adult-use cannabis sales began in Colorado in 2014. In addition to businesses on the city’s main street, a Denver entrepreneur has sold local authorities to license the world’s first “marijuana”. Mini mall.” There was so much weed for sale in Trinidad that the community boasted “a pot shop for 300 people,” according to Amanda Korth, president of the board of directors of the Chamber of Commerce of Trinidad-Las Animas county.

It had nothing to do with Trinidad itself – they don’t smoke more weed there than in Pueblo – but everything to do with geography. About a three-hour drive from Santa Fe, Trinidad is the closest Colorado city to New Mexico along Interstate-25. This meant that Trinidad was an obvious destination for anyone in New Mexico wanting to buy some legal weed – and for anyone heading south wanting to make one last stop before entering dry country.

In Trinidad, the cannabis boom in border towns lasted more than eight years. On April 1, legal cannabis sales began in New Mexico, with the full support of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, who encouraged New Mexico cannabis entrepreneurs to “kick the socks off of this industry” and, somehow to sell more cannabis per year than even Colorado, a more populous state. Cannabis is not as heavily taxed in New Mexico as it is in Colorado, and customers can purchase up to two ounces per day, twice Colorado’s one-ounce limit. And unlike California and Colorado, localities cannot refuse sales.

…and bust

As NPR reported, early on cannabis dispensaries sprang up in the southern and eastern parts of the state, in small towns such as Clovis, in classic truck stop towns such as Las Cruces – anywhere within driving distance of Texas, where cannabis is still illegal.

The Las Cruces location of R. Greenleaf, a chain of dispensaries owned by Colorado-based Schwazze, is now the company’s “most profitable store,” with visitors from Texas accounting for about half of the customer base, said Justin Dye, CEO of Schwazze, in a recent phone interview.

“We’re not here just for the frontier,” he added, but as first-half data released by BDS Analytics shows, sales have slowed and plateaued across Colorado as they explode. in New Mexico. That means trouble for border towns along the Colorado-New Mexico line and the beginning of the end of Trinidad’s latest boom.

“You wouldn’t want to buy a store in Trinidad right now,” Dye said. “You wouldn’t want to be an operator there. It is considerably contracted. For now, Schwazze and Dye need not worry: Most of their Colorado dispensaries are located in the Denver metro area. Sales there are also slowing, but at least there are no worries about outside competition or a tectonic shift in geography that, like a factory closing or an oil well drying up, threatens vitality. economy of a colony.

That’s not to say that there’s nothing good in Trinidad anymore, just that the “mini-marijuana mall” and concentration of dispensaries may have survived their time.

Life in the New American West

For Korth, the president of the Trinidad Chamber of Commerce, it’s just another cycle, with mining, sex changes and now cannabis.

“These industries are gone, and so it was boom or bust, feast or famine,” she said. “When the marijuana stores came along, it was a big boom.” But, she added, offering a counterpoint to New Mexico Governor Lujan Grisham’s boosterism, “they talked a lot about taxes and what taxes would do for schools and roads and so on. And I don’t haven’t really seen much of that.”

As for how long the border bet will last elsewhere, that’s a matter of time and politics — and the bizarre situation of rooting against the march of legalization in red states, including Texas and Utah. , the latter being a short drive from Dinosaur, CO, on the western edge of that state. There are 183 people in Dinosaur, according to census figures, and there are three dispensaries, an even higher ratio than Trinidad.

Dye thinks Texas will stay dry for a while. “I don’t see Texas having a major program for a while,” he said, a situation due to the dark red conservatism of the Lone Star State. “I think it’s going to be something for a long time around border towns.”

But there are rumors to the contrary. Sid Miller, Texas Agriculture Commissioner wearing a ten-gallon hat and supporting Trump, recently became the highest-ranking Republican in the state to call for the legalization of medical cannabis. If Texas moves half as fast as New Mexico, that state’s border towns could find their time in the sun even shorter than Trinidad’s — but still be part of the same predictable pace in the new American West.

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