Aug 2, 2022 - World

New Mexico teachers quit classroom to open marijuana dispensary

Five women pose while leaning on a glass case full of marijuana accessories, like glass pipes
From left: Jamie Munsey, Laura Lagarda, Gina Mares, Mary Jean Garcia, Mallory Garcia, at their marijuana dispensary in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Photo courtesy of Cody Garcia.

A group of middle school teachers in Albuquerque, New Mexico, decided over a happy hour late last year to quit their jobs and open a cannabis dispensary.

The big picture: The women are among a small number of Latinas in the U.S. who have opened dispensaries as more states legalize recreational pot.

Details: La Tiendita de Motita opened last week. It was founded by five women—Mary Jean Garcia, Mallory Garcia, Jamie Munsey, Gina Mares and Laura Legarda — who wanted to do something different and destigmatize marijuana use. Only one still teaches.

  • The women were teachers for several years but wanted to spend more time with family and take on a new challenge, they said.
  • "I do feel like we were raised being taught weed is bad," Mallory Garcia said.
  • She said they want to teach others — especially elderly people for whom marijuana is still deeply stigmatized — that cannabis can have medicinal benefits.

Between the lines: Hispanics account for only 5.7% of licensed cannabis business owners, according to the National Hispanic Cannabis Council, an organization formed to address the underrepresentation of Hispanics in the cannabis business. The council based its findings on a survey and says there's no national database tracking dispensary owners' race or ethnicity.

  • Finding financing is among the biggest struggles.
  • The teachers said they sold assets and cashed out retirement funds to start La Tiendita. They hope eventually to have their own cannabis farm.

State of play: The New Mexico bill that legalized recreational weed earlier this year included provisions to help people with limited funding and resources get in the door, its Democrat co-author Sen. Gerald “Jerry” Ortiz y Pino tells Axios.

  • Low-cost loans are also available for micro producers, micro manufacturers, and micro retailers, Democratic State Rep. Javier Martínez, another author, told Axios.

The intrigue: The New Mexico law also allows cannabis business owners to extend their retail license to cover other ventures, like production, manufacturing or courier services, state Rep. Javier Martínez, a co-author, said.

  • "That is a game changer," Martínez said.
  • The law allows for a micro-business license to cultivate up to 200 plants for a flat $1,000 fee aimed at attracting first-time commercial growers.

Subscribe to Axios Latino to get vital news about Latinos and Latin America, delivered to your inbox on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Go deeper