First day of recreational pot sales draws crowd to Farmington dispensary

Owner Jason Little says he expects to run short of inventory

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — There was a festive atmosphere brewing in the parking lot of New Mexico Alternative Care, Farmington's first medical marijuana dispensary, on the morning of April 1 as the business prepared to open its doors for recreational pot sales for the first time.

The dispensary, located at 534 E. Broadway Ave., has been selling cannabis products for more than 10 years to those with a medical marijuana card. But state law now provides for the sale of such products to adults on a recreational basis, and by the time the shop opened at 10 a.m. April 1, there already was a line of approximately a dozen people waiting to get inside and take advantage of the situation.

Nearby, a DJ was playing music over a sound system, and two food trucks had set up shop in hopes of feeding customers who were waiting patiently for their chance to get inside and make their purchases.

Justin Bryant, a 34-year-old Bloomfield native, was first in line and was all smiles as he waited for the doors to be unlocked.

Bloomfield resident Justin Bryant was the first customer in line when New Mexico Alternative Care opened its doors to recreational marijuana sales on the morning of April 1.

"I just wanted to show up and support the local guys and to support the state," he said.

Bryant said he was the original grower for New Mexico Alternative Care and began using its products after obtaining a medical marijuana card.

"I'm hoping the state continues to look out for the patients, but (marijuana) really is medical, and it helps a lot of people with PTSD and who are coping with cancer, and it's good to see the access," he said.

A 38-year-old Farmington woman who said her name was Ashley was third in line and said she had been waiting for 20 years for the day when she could legally buy cannabis products in New Mexico.

"I'm sick of going to Colorado, and I would rather do something for our state," she said.

She said she was still wrapping her head around the idea that she could purchase marijuana legally in New Mexico for recreational use.

"I'm so excited right now, I can't stand it," she said, adding that when she had prepared to head to New Mexico Alternative Care that morning, she was afraid that when she got there it would all turn out to be a bad April Fool's Day joke.

Jason Little, the founder of the business, said his shop already had done an average day's business within its first hour of being open.

"We're going to run short on product, for sure," he said.

Food trucks were set up in the parking lot at New Mexico Alternative Care on the morning of April 1 as the longtime medical marijuana dispensary prepared to sell cannabis products to recreational customers for the first time.

Little said the process of obtaining a license for recreational sales was not terribly difficult for legacy medical pot shops like his. But he said other developments that took place during the run-up to the April 1 start date for recreational sales complicated the situation.

For instance, he said the state issued new packaging regulations for cannabis products on March 10. He said the addition of recreational sales has, in general, added several new layers to state's oversight of the industry.

Little said he knew having a big enough inventory to meet the new demand was likely to be a problem for his dispensary, but he said New Mexico Alternative Care was unable to begin growing additional marijuana until very recently because of some of the state's new regulations. He said he has some additional grows that will begin producing soon, and that increased capacity should allow him to stay caught up with demand.

He also said his business would be bringing some exciting new brands to the state over the next several months, including some owned by a famous musician.

Food, music and local pride

While Little may have been fretting about running short of supply, others at his dispensary seemed to be in a mood to celebrate a day many of them thought would never come.

Stetson Joe, Jay Gleason and Miguel Zamarron of the Primal Swine Co. food truck were moving about the truck's cramped interior that morning, doing prep work and preparing to serve burgers, barbecue and fried noodles, among other offerings, to those waiting in line outside the dispensary.

Stetson Joe does prep work inside the Primal Swine Co. food truck on April 1 in the parking lot at New Mexico Alternative Care in Farmington.

"We're here to celebrate the beginning of legal marijuana and support the change that is happening," Joe said.

Gleason noted that much of the food on the Primal Swine menu is locally sourced, and he said he liked the fact that New Mexico Alternative Care is locally owned and grows its own products.

DJ Dave Davis, a 51-year-old Flora Vista resident, was spinning hip hop tunes on his turntable and soaking in the atmosphere while his brother Shane captured video of the scene via a drone camera hovering nearby.

"We're just going to have a good time," he said, noting he planned on continuing to play music until 4:20 p.m. that day.

Davis said he has known Little for a long time and admires what he has accomplished with New Mexico Alternative Care.

"He has worked very, very hard to get to this point, and I'm proud of him," Davis said. "He's probably one of the hardest-working people I know."

Another customer waiting to get inside that morning was Brittany Eck, a 30-year-old Farmington resident who described herself as both a medical and recreational user of cannabis products in various forms.

"They all help me," she said. "Each medical reason I have needs different things."

Closer to the door, a 35-year-old Farmington resident named Nikki said she had been trying to get a medical marijuana card to help her treat her anxiety, but she had been unsuccessful. She said she was happy to be able to buy recreational cannabis products in New Mexico instead of having to travel to Colorado.

As he considered the new demands on his business, Little's thoughts seemed to be on his medical marijuana customers who have allowed his business to thrive for more than a decade.

"I really appreciate our medical patients that have supported and built this for 10 years," he said. "They've been paving the way."

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: