My eighth grade teacher is opening a pot dispensary in the South Valley - Albuquerque Journal

My eighth grade teacher is opening a pot dispensary in the South Valley

From left, former teachers Laura Lagarda, Mary Jean Garcia, Jamie Munsey and Mallory Garcia, who are banding together to start La Tiendita de Motita cannabis dispensary in the South Valley. One of those teachers — Munsey — was business reporter Matthew Narvaiz’s eighth grade English teacher. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

You meet all types of people in New Mexico’s budding cannabis industry.

As a reporter covering cannabis, I’ve met real estate developers who decided to jump into the industry. Former state officials who now work in cannabis. I’ve met families that have entered the business together, operating a retail location just like a family-run restaurant.

I even met a married couple who are military veterans, looking to spread the medical benefits of cannabis consumption.

What caught me most off guard, though, was receiving a Facebook message from my eighth grade English teacher saying that she, along with four other former teachers, plans to open a dispensary in the South Valley by the end of the summer.

Jamie Munsey, known to my middle school self as “Ms. Munsey,” is launching La Tiendita de Motita with a group of former educators from South Valley Prep – all of whom live in the South Valley and understand the rep this side of town can sometimes get. Through opening the dispensary, which will serve both medical patients and recreational customers, they plan on educating community members on the benefits of cannabis, according to Mary Jean Garcia, a former educator and one of Munsey’s business partners.

“We’ve talked about how we really want to be that kind of shop where we’re actually getting to know the people that are going to be coming in because want to know what their ailments are,” Mary Jean Garcia said.

I’ve often heard how businesses plan on cannabis education through direct community immersion – and I do believe in the sincerity of those aspirations. It’s refreshing to listen to my former teacher and her business partners who want to do this in the community I grew up in.

I was in eighth grade in 2010, the inaugural year for South Valley Prep. The charter school opened off Gun Club Road and Coors Boulevard in a tiny building that formerly served as a small private school for the church across the street, Valley Christian Church.

At first, I was hesitant to attend South Valley Prep. It was a tiny school in its first year, and I was going to be separated from friends I made at the middle school I attended previously.

For some time, there were two classes that used the cafeteria as classrooms – Munsey’s class being one of them. It was chaos in some ways. Kids from separate classes talking over one another in a tiny building wasn’t maybe the best way to get us to pay attention to a lesson. Now, though, I realize the dedication Munsey and other teachers at South Valley Prep had. It didn’t matter where they were teaching – they just wanted us to learn.

Munsey taught at South Valley Prep for over a decade before deciding last year to resign and find something new to do. She was unsure what was next for her exactly until a happy hour with her now-business partners came together in December. That’s when the idea for a pot shop came up, and Munsey’s business partners – a group that includes Mary Jean Garcia, Mallory Garcia, Laura Legarda and one other teacher – joked about the possibility.

But Munsey wasn’t joking.

“I needed to think about finding another job basically,” Munsey said. “And the choice, you know, from my perspective is either start a new career and try to get into UNM with another 20 years in there or do something I want to do. And basically, I started calling them and (was like), ‘Dude, are we really going to do this? If we’re gonna do it, we need to do it because I gotta do something.'”

The joke soon turned into a reality and the group applied for a retail license to open their own dispensary.

Just a few months later, the group received approval and eventually landed on a location at 468 Isleta SW. The location is in the heart of the South Valley, just a brief walk away from neighborhood favorite Kathy’s Carry Out and a Dairy Queen. That location alone may help business thrive as cannabis and munchies go hand in hand.

Aside from the dispensary, Munsey and her fellow founders are considering a potential cannabis lounge at the location. There is also talks of seeking a license to grow cannabis.

In other words, these teachers are all in.

“I hope they see us as someone who loves them, someone who’s supportive of … just making sure community has what they need,” Mallory Garcia said. “I think as we get going we hope to discover more ways we can make true impacts (on the community).”

UpFront is a Journal front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Matthew Narvaiz at 505-823-3919 or


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