Supporting tiny NM cannabis businesses

Organtica founder David White stands in the company’s Albuquerque dispensary. White helped found NM Micro Biz to help smaller cannabis producers compete with large out-of-state companies. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Now that cannabis is legal for recreational use in New Mexico, growers – including large, established medical cannabis producers – are jockeying for market share.

But what about the smaller producers – the mom-and-pop growers trying to break into an industry that some feel has been weighted toward bigger businesses?

A new industry group known as NM Micro Biz just popped up that’s designed to provide smaller medical cannabis producers – so-called “microbusinesses” – with the tools and education they need to succeed in a market that may soon be dominated by bigger companies.

Organtica sales manager Grace White fixes a display of products at the company’s Albuquerque dispensary. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

“We need more local businesses, because the big boys are coming to town,” said Sarah Dolk, an employee at the New Mexico dispensary Organtica and one of the organizers of NM Micro Biz, along with Organtica founder David White.

White told the Journal that the focus will be on creating voluntary collaboration between medical cannabis producers, including offering education and other resources to inexperienced growers for free.

Organtica’s Albuquerque dispensary at 4001 Menaul NE. Company founder David White is helping launch NM Micro Biz, a group designed to prop up microbusinesses trying to get into New Mexico’s fledgling recreational cannabis industry. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

The goal is to create a more level playing field and ensure that the industry won’t be dominated by large producers who prioritize money over the well-being of medical patients, White said.

“Their focus is primarily going to be profits,” he said. “… It’s a siren song that’s very hard for these businesses to ignore.”

When New Mexico lawmakers legalized recreational cannabis, they included a provision designed to open the industry up to smaller, local producers. House Bill 1, signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in April, allows for microbusinesses to produce smaller amounts of cannabis under less expensive licenses.

Still, White and Dolk said they’re concerned that legalization will lead to an influx of money from large, out-of-state producers who will price out smaller producers and flood the market with cheap, mediocre cannabis, a pattern that they say has played out in other states with recreational cannabis.

“The lure of cheap cannabis is something that is extremely disruptive to the market,” White said.

For White, the priority is making sure there are enough small producers who know what they’re doing to provide an alternative to larger growers. To get there, NM Micro Biz is working to educate newer producers on what to do and not do. Dolk said the organization has worked with about 20 different people, answering questions and offering advice. For growers who haven’t done this much before, Dolk said starting small and not trying to expand too quickly is the name of the game.

“We’re trying to go for the people who have no experience who need our help,” Dolk said.

Dolk added that the organization also has plans to offer free strains and clones to new growers. That way, Dolk said, growers will have access to plants that do well in specific grow conditions quickly, rather than needing to rely on trial and error. Dolk said she wants to create an environment where smaller growers can sell their product to Organtica or other dispensaries in the state.

“We’re just trying to hook people up together,” she said.

Going forward, White said he’d love to see hundreds of microbusinesses flourish in New Mexico, particularly from minority communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. While the organization is focusing on medical cannabis for the time being, White said he expects to move into the recreational arena once the program gets off the ground.

Stephen Hamway covers economic development, health care and tourism for the Journal. He can be reached at shamway@abqjournal.com.

 

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