Santa Fe could have double the dispensaries pending approval of about a dozen cannabis license applications
Santa Fe’s cannabis scene is set to see some new faces, potentially doubling the number of dispensaries in the city.
The state Regulation and Licensing Department’s Cannabis Control Division has received 13 applications from businesses looking to operate in Santa Fe, a search of the department’s recently-launched public portal shows. (A map from the Department of Health counts 14 existing dispensaries in the city licensed under the medical program.)
SFR spoke with one of those businesses, Endo, which is owned and operated by a local family who is applying for a license. The owners of Roadrunner Manufacturing, an Edgewood microbusiness that was among the first cannabis companies in Santa Fe County to receive licensure, also took some time to chat about its efforts to prepare for recreational sales to begin in April.
Both companies’ owners, while enthusiastic about their futures in the industry, point to challenges ranging from finding a space to operate to plant-count limits.
The companies that have applied thus far are dispersed fairly evenly across Santa Fe, with a couple locations downtown, a couple on the Southside—which is, for now, home to only a handful of dispensaries—and a few others along Cerrillos Road.
With recreational sales expected to begin in a little over two months, no new licenses have been issued in Santa Fe.
New Mexico doesn’t have a cap on the number of cannabis licenses that can be issued, so anyone who applies and fulfills the state’s requirements will receive licensure.
The family behind Endo—named in part as a nod to 1990s hip-hop culture, referring to high-quality cannabis grown indoors—has high hopes as they work to enter an industry with which they’re already familiar.
Ian Aarons, the company’s managing director, received a personal production license about five years ago to grow medical cannabis for a family friend who was diagnosed with cancer.
“The whole business idea started when, years ago, I had started growing as a caretaker for a cancer patient,” Aarons tells SFR. “It really affected me when he passed away but one of the things that stuck with me is how proud I was of the difference I made on his last days and the impact this plant has for so many.”
Aarons’ mother, Doris Valdez, is the president of the company and his father, Stephen Aarons, a criminal defense attorney, is acting as general counsel. Also involved is the younger Aarons’ cousin, Alex Costello, who owns an IT company called Atum Tech, and fiancé Stephanie Portillo.
Valdez grew up in Santa Fe, while her husband is from the Midwest and settled in New Mexico’s capital in the 1980s.
“I worked for the museums for a hundred years—30 years—and now I’m retired,” says Valdez. “So this gives me the opportunity to be there for them and help them, to push them forward.”
If all goes to plan, a 10,000-square-foot building on Siler Road will soon house four grow rooms, holding a total of 240 mature plants, a processing space and a retail storefront. The company is finishing renovations, which the city and state must approve before cultivation can start.
Challenges, the younger Aarons says, have included finding people with expertise in architecture and engineering and zeroing in on a commercial property that fit the company’s needs and zoning requirements.
The group expected to start growing a month or two ago, but their target now is March or April.
From seed to harvest, it can take four months to grow cannabis, meaning they could be ready to start selling their own product by mid-summer. Meanwhile, they’re considering trying to buy wholesale from other producers and sell out of their retail shop, but there’s concern that there won’t be enough product available.
“In the long run, so long as we get it off the ground, I think we’ll be fine,” Stephen Aarons says. “It’s not a rush to be there for the April tsunami, but it would have been nice.”
Despite some hurdles, Ian Aarons says he’s optimistic about Endo’s future and hopes it will be a positive force in the community, in part by providing good jobs. He hasn’t locked down how many people he’ll need to hire or how much they’ll be paid, but $15 an hour is likely the minimum of what the company would offer, he says.
Farther south, in Edgewood, Roadrunner Manufacturing got licensed earlier this month to start growing, with approval for manufacturing and retail pending.
The company opened in 2018 after hemp became federally legal to produce and offers CBD products out of Verve Health Shop.
CEO Bob Boylan says he thinks microbusinesses like his can set themselves apart from larger companies through customer service.
“Our girls that work there [at Verve] are really amazing young ladies and they connect really strongly with the customer base and know them by name,” Boylan tells SFR. “We believe that it’s service that’s ultimately going to help the micros survive in the climate of the big boys, that that’s truly what will be the difference if we make it or don’t make it.”
One challenge for microbusinesses, Boylan says, is the restrictive production limit.
CCD issued an emergency rule change earlier this month, temporarily doubling plant-count limits for producers. Microbusinesses are defined by state law as having 200 mature plants or fewer, so they weren’t affected by the rule.
Senate Bill 100, introduced at the Roundhouse last week by state Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, would change that, increasing the limit for microbusinesses to 1,000 plants.
“The only problem with that is the micros will not have the funding or the physical infrastructure to even accommodate that without having to scale up themselves,” Boylan says.
But, like the Aarons family, he’s excited for what’s to come.
“There’s some challenges but we use a wellness model, so we’re kind of a hybrid in how we’re going to approach the rec market,” Boylan says. “Medical cannabis patients are not going away and they need to have an environment that’s a little more empathetic and education-based.”