Pojoaque is first pueblo in New Mexico to open cannabis dispensary

Aug. 11—POJOAQUE — Drew Little considered the question for a moment as he surveyed the nearby cabinet cases full of cannabis paraphernalia.

How did it feel, he was asked, to be running the first pueblo-run cannabis dispensary in the state?

“I feel like we’re making history,” said the general manager of the Wõ Poví Cannabis shop in Pojoaque, which opened just over a month ago on the Cities of Gold Road adjacent to the busy U.S. 84/285.

The opening came just four months after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed 10-year intergovernmental agreements with the leaders of two pueblos — Picuris and Pojoaque — allowing them to engage in cannabis industry activities.

Because Native American tribes fall under federal rather than state oversight, and cannabis remains illegal under federal law, New Mexico had to find a way to include those pueblos.

In March, Pojoaque Pueblo Gov. Jenelle Roybal said the pueblo planned to open a dispensary. “I feel very strongly about cannabis’s medical potential,” she said at the time. “This is something that could be used for people with any kind of illness.”

Little said the dispensary opened July 7. He estimated 40 percent of the store’s customers have been medical cannabis patients.

The Tewa words wõ poví translate to “medicine flower,” Little said.

He said at least half of the clientele that has come into the shop over the past month has been from out of state, people who were visiting the area or the pueblo and saw the shop’s sign off the highway.

Down the line — perhaps in a year or so — the pueblo hopes to start growing its own cannabis, Little said. In the interim, it purchases its organic flower product from a few producers within the state.

The shop offers 15-20 different cannabis flowers, edibles, vape products and drinks — including Tiki Juice — to people like Randy Lujan, a medical cannabis user who said the customer service at the store is “awesome.”

Little and his staff of six employees are always friendly, Lujan said, and “willing to help explain what edibles you want, which ones will help with pain, what’s good for day, what’s good for night.”

The intergovernmental agreements are aimed at preventing federal law enforcement actions on tribal lands, the Governor’s Office said in March.

The agreements with the two pueblos allow for amendments if federal policy on cannabis changes.

So far, Little said, there has been no interference from or problems with federal authorities, although sometimes customers are a little wary of the fact the store is so close to the Pueblo of Pojoaque Tribal Police Department. (It’s basically next door.)

“That’s not hurting us one bit,” Little said.

New Mexico authorized the production, use and sale of recreational cannabis to adults 21 and over last year, and the legalization of retail sales began April 1.

Nationally, several tribes have been taking advantage of intergovernmental pacts with states that have legalized cannabis, according to a 2020 National Law Review article on the issue.

“As more and more states have legalized medicinal and/or recreational marijuana use, an increasing number of tribes have become involved in the cannabis industry,” the article said.

Little said he wants the cannabis shop to open the door to the cultural and environmental attractions the pueblo has. Echoing a point made by some cannabis operators in the past, he said the biggest challenge for the business right now is accessing quality organic cannabis.

“It’s the demand on the market because we don’t have our own production facility,” Little said.

It’s unclear if Picuris Pueblo is planning any cannabis-related operations. A call to the pueblo’s administrative office about the issue was not returned. As of this week, “no other pueblos have currently requested or expressed an interest in an IGA for cannabis,” wrote Nora Meyers Sackett, spokeswoman for the governor, in an email.

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