Regulated sales of cannabis in New Mexico topped more than $40 million for the month of December, with recreational marijuana sales setting a new record of $28 million for the month. Sales of medical marijuana totaled about $15.1 million for the last month of 2022, up from about $14 million in November, according to data released this week by the state’s Cannabis Control Division. The increase over the previous month reverses a trend of declining medical marijuana sales posted over the preceding four months, going back to August.

Andrew Vallejos, the acting director of the Cannabis Control Division (CCD), said that the record-breaking month for adult-use cannabis sales coupled with an increase in medical marijuana purchases was a welcome surprise for the state’s cannabis industry and regulators.

“I don’t know exactly what attributed to certainly the increase both in medical and recreational, as a bump up in December, but it was kind of surprising to us to see how robust those numbers were,” Vallejos said in a statement quoted by the Albuquerque Journal, adding “The sales (numbers) are interesting in and of themselves, but what I’m encouraged by is the fact that it means a steady cash flow for (businesses) to stay open and to make a profit.”

Recreational Marijuana Sales Launched In April

In April 2021, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the Cannabis Regulation Act into law, legalizing the use of marijuana for adults and creating a framework for regulated sales of adult-use cannabis. Only a year later, in April 2022, licensed sales of recreational marijuana began at regulated dispensaries in the state.

Since the April launch, sales of recreational marijuana in New Mexico totaled more than $214 million in 2022. For the same time period, medical marijuana sales totaled about $144.2 million, according to state data. At the current rate of sales, recreational marijuana sales in New Mexico are likely to top $300 million in the first full year of regulated adult-use cannabis sales.

Ben Lewinger, the executive director of the New Mexico Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, said that December’s recreational sales numbers illustrate how small towns are taking advantage of the economic opportunities associated with the state’s newest industry.

“This is very impressive on a statewide, macro level, but I think what’s more indicative of the early success of this industry is when you look at smaller, rural communities,” Lewinger said. “Places like Alto, Cloudcroft, Raton and Tularosa each boast more than 10,000 total transactions for the month of December. That’s tax revenue for those municipalities and their counties, as well as for the state.”

New Mexico’s small towns, particularly those that are near the Texas border, have shown strong gains in monthly recreational marijuana sales since the April launch. Sunland Park had its best month so far in December, eclipsing $2 million in recreational marijuana sales for the first time. Hobbs also posted strong numbers, with a record-breaking $1.7 million in recreational marijuana sales last month. Nearly $832,000 in recreational cannabis sales were rung up in Clovis in December, the highest ever reported in the town of 38,000.

Albuquerque leads the state in recreational cannabis sales, posting about $8.4 million in sales for December, a new record for the city. Medical marijuana sales added another $6 million to the city’s overall total for December, bringing it to more than $14 million. Two cities saw about $2 million in recreational cannabis sales in December, with Santa Fe posting the strongest showing to date and Las Cruces seeing its second-highest monthly total.

Sales of recreational marijuana have dominated New Mexico’s cannabis industry since the April launch, representing about 65% of total sales dollars and about 68% of all dispensary transactions. But medical marijuana patients spend more money per visit, with the average medical cannabis transaction in the state coming to $52.57. By comparison, the average recreational marijuana sale came to $45.31 over the past nine months.

CCD director Vallejos said last month that recreational marijuana legalization in New Mexico is not just about destigmatizing the use of the plant. More importantly, cannabis policy reform presents new economic opportunities for the state.

“I think there was a push by the people who wanted to have legalized, adult-use cannabis,” Vallejos said. “But there was also opportunity for economic growth. … I don’t want to pretend like cannabis is going to be oil and gas — the state isn’t going to rely on cannabis profits to fund massive amount[s] for schools — but as we diversify our economy, it’s just another arrow in the quiver.”

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