Home News Local News NM medical marijuana grower, seller comes to Roswell

NM medical marijuana grower, seller comes to Roswell

Andrew Hertel is the manager of the Roswell location for Southwest Organic Producers. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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A medical marijuana grower and provider with locations in Bernalillo County has chosen Roswell for its first location in what the company considers an underserved part of the state.

Southwest Organic Producers, or SWOP, opened a dispensary at 610 W. Second St. on April 2.

“Most of our dispensaries are in the north, so this is kind of our first footprint in the south,” said regional manager Will Boston.

Boston said he grew up in Roswell, graduated from Goddard High School, taught for some time at New Mexico Military Institute and worked in the oil and gas industry.

He’s been with SWOP for about five years and serves on the board of directors for its licensing group.

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“Growing up in the south, I understood the underrepresentation of the rural communities in the south for medical cannabis,” Boston said. “It just kind of made sense. I could kind of head up the growth down south, at least initially.”

The cannabis industry is in a state of flux right now, not sure exactly what will happen now that recreational marijuana has been legalized.

With the signing of House Bill 2 in April, people 21 or older can possess some marijuana, cannabis extracts and plants for personal use beginning June 29 and commercial recreational sales will begin no later than April 2022, but the exact rules and procedures for the recreational industry have not yet been determined.

An advisory group will begin work on the regulations in September 2021, and a newly formed Cannabis Control Division with the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department is expected to have the rules ready by January 2022.

If the state acts correctly, as Boston sees it, it will protect New Mexico-based companies by ensuring that they get first dibs on, or a greater allocation of, recreational growing and provider licenses.

“Hopefully our state does it right,” he said. “Those people in California can say, ‘Hey, here’s $30 million. I am going to put a farm down in the south and beat everybody, kill everybody, kill the industry.’ They are able to do it at such a lower cost than everybody here. New Mexico should be first in this agenda, and the licenses for any part of the industry should be issued to New Mexicans.”

He said the state needs to ensure that the industry promotes steady growth, not a “Wild West” environment where too many companies rush in, saturating local markets.

He also said he agrees with others in the industry that the state probably will issue “fully integrated licenses” to marijuana growers and producers, so they can grow and sell for both the medical and recreational market.

SWOP’s local manager, Andrew Hertel, said business has been steady in the past month, with interest growing as people become aware of the new location.

He said the Roswell dispensary sells a range of marijuana products, including flowers, edibles, infused drinks, tinctures and topical items. At some point in the future, he said, it might sell cannabidiol products, or legal products derived from cannabis plants. CBD products are non-hallucinogenic, but advocates for those products say they still have therapeutic benefits for some physical or mental ailments.

While Roswell has at least four other medical marijuana providers, according to a New Mexico Department of Health list updated in November, Hertel said he thinks SWOP offers some advantages. Those include what he considers the high quality of the product, that some of the products are organic and employees’ attitudes about customers.

He said he and his staff — known as bud tenders — are “passionate about the patients, caring for the patients and getting the patients the best product.”

When they first opened the doors, he said, a number of people came in without their medical marijuana cards and not sure if the symptoms they had could be treated with marijuana.

SWOP then began organizing what it calls “doctor’s days.” A physician and a SWOP representative meet with prospective patients to determine what conditions they might have and whether prescriptions for medical marijuana will help. Currently, the state approves medical marijuana for 28 conditions.

To support the recreational market, existing growers will need to be able to grow more marijuana plants, as even now, according to a 2016 industry report, they do not grow enough to support the medical need. Exactly how many more plants growers will be allowed to produce is not known at this time.

Boston said he would like to see a growing facility in the Roswell area at some point. The company now has five greenhouses at a farm in Corrales.

“I have always wanted to be down here growing because this is a farming community and people know how to grow stuff,” he said. “We will have to wait and see.”

According to a fourth-quarter 2020 report issued March 16 by the state Health Department, New Mexico now has 104,655 people with medical cards for marijuana. Chaves County residents with cards numbered 3,157, or 3% of the state total.

Medical marijuana retail sales totaled about $50.6 million for October to December 2020. Growers were licensed to produce 51,250 plants by December 2020, and 29,370 plants were in production.

Kelly O’Donnell of O’Donnell Economics in Corrales, who presented information to legislators this year as they considered legalizing recreational use, had estimated in a 2016 report that adult-use recreational cannabis could generate up to $412.5 million in the first year and $677.7 million by the fifth year. The report also indicated that it could generate more than 11,000 jobs.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.