SUNLAND PARK, New Mexico (Border Report) – Business is booming in Sunland Park thanks to legalized marijuana sales.
At least 15 dispensaries are now operating, employing hundreds; shopping center vacancies are low, and the city just got $79,976 from the state in tax revenue from December cannabis sales alone, Mayor Javier Perea said.
“One of the benefits this is creating for us is new revenue for the municipality that we can use to improve services within the city and better salaries,” Perea said. “We have seen a lot of growth. A lot of the older buildings are being refurbished to cater to this new market that is coming to our area.”
He said the city has been averaging $50,000 in taxes since New Mexico legalized cannabis sales in April, and that amount has been growing. That means Sunland Park has received upwards of $400,000 through the end of December, second in the state only to Albuquerque, according to the monthly cannabis excise tax report.
A tour of the most visible dispensaries showed many customers are coming from Texas. The white plates easily outnumbered the turquoise and black-and-yellow New Mexico car tags in parking lots. Sunland Park is about 5 miles west of Downtown El Paso, Texas.
Perea concurs that a very high number of Texans are crossing the state line to purchase cannabis products, which presents the city an opportunity to build alternative entertainment venues to cash in on that traffic.
“We have new developments coming to Sunland Park not only to cater to this (cannabis) industry but to visitors coming here as well,” the mayor said. That includes future concert venues, shopping centers and restaurants.
Pablo Duran, a cannabis entrepreneur who grew up in Sunland Park, agrees that the industry has revitalized this New Mexico municipality of 16,000 people.
“After seeing the city of Sunland Park most abandoned and forgotten – if you want to say so – this industry has boomed; real estate prices have developed tremendously,” he said.
But Duran, who used to run a cannabis business in Colorado, warns of a glut in the number of dispensaries that can make profitability unsustainable for many who thought they could make a quick buck.
“Too many people are jumping in not knowing the facts of what’s going to happen,” he said. “When we started years ago in Colorado, there were more dispensaries than Starbucks. Now 80 percent of those (initial) dispensaries are gone. This is not what it appears to be. This is a lot of hard work.”
Duran is about to open Fields of Dreams, a dispensary and hydroponic marijuana cultivation operation. He said the glut will bring prices down and that will put economically underfunded or overextended operations out of business.
“Boom and dying out,” he said. “It happened in Colorado, in Oregon, in Washington and it will definitely happen here.”
Fields of Dreams is poised to employ more than 100 when it gets a pending final inspection by the state.