December 25, 2022

2022 Top Stories #5: Recreational cannabis sales start

Note: Every year, we count down the top ten stories of the year, as voted on by NM Political Report staffers.

See our entire countdown of 2022 top stories, to date, here.

After years of efforts to legalize adult-use cannabis in New Mexico, April 1, 2022 was the day.

This was the day that New Mexico joined over a dozen other states in legalizing the recreational use of the substance for adults.

The New Mexico legislature passed a law to legalize adult-use cannabis in 2021. Though cannabis legalization passed in 2021, efforts to “clean up” language and fix perceived changes in the cannabis legalization law failed to pass the legislature.

In the weeks ahead of legalization, and even after, some feared the sales would lead to a shortage of medical cannabis, which did not occur. Even so, sales of medical cannabis have dropped since the start of the year. 

Projections found that it could bring in millions of dollars in tax revenue for the state, both through the state’s gross receipts tax and excise taxes specifically on cannabis products.

Excitement was high, with a store in Las Cruces opening at midnight for the first sales, and sales statewide exceeding $2 million according to state data.

In the first month, consumers paid $2.4 million in cannabis excise taxes, according to state numbers.

The tax bill itself was higher than some retailers expected, because of the excise tax. The excise tax will increase annually for the next several years. Some believe the high excise taxes will lead more cannabis users to the black market.

While medical sales dropped, recreational sales continued steadily through the end of the year.

Throughout the year, the monthly numbers showed the usual suspects as having the largest number of sales: Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Las Cruces, the three largest population cities in the state.

But also higher up than one would expect were smaller municipalities like Clovis, Hobbs and Anthony. 

That’s because these cities were close to Texas, where cannabis is still illegal. In the case of Anthony, it’s a town split between states by a single road in some spots. It is still illegal to transport cannabis across state lines.

Much of the Southwest now has legal adult-use recreational cannabis. Colorado was the first state in the nation, along with Washington, to approve recreational-use cannabis in 2012. Arizona followed suit in 2020. Both Arizona and Colorado legalized recreational-use cannabis by ballot measures.


  • Matthew Reichbach

    Matthew Reichbach is the editor of the NM Political Report. The former founder and editor of the NM Telegram, Matthew was also a co-founder of New Mexico FBIHOP with his brother and one of the original hires at the groundbreaking website the New Mexico Independent. Matthew has covered events such as the Democratic National Convention and Netroots Nation and formerly published, “The Morning Word,” a daily political news summary for NM Telegram and the Santa Fe Reporter.