Albuquerque decriminalized marijuana this past month, but even before that, cannabis-related businesses were thriving in the Duke City.
Cheba Hut — a marijuana-themed sandwich shop located on Harvard — has been open since 2008 and is a close campus option. It serves local beer on tap and makes sandwiches until midnight.
Isaac Montoya, the owner of Cheba Hut since 2012, said business is good primarily due to quality sandwiches, but also the growing number of states and cities legalizing marijuana across the country.
“It’s not just a college thing anymore — marijuana is being utilized across the nation,” Montoya said. “It’s not just about the theme for us, we’re strictly a sandwich restaurant, everything else is just a coincidence, as we say.”
The name Cheba Hut is derived from “cheeba,” a slang word for weed.
Even their sandwich sizes are marijuana-themed. Basing their sandwich sizes off of weed slang they refer to a four-inch as a “nug,” an eight-inch as a “pinner” and a 12-inch as a “blunt.”
The first of the franchise was opened in Tempe, Arizona in 1998 by sandwich delivery driver Scott Jennings. According to a HuffPost article, the franchise made the menu to appeal to stoners and had a marketing technique to open stores near college campuses.
Another local business, the Gathering Spot, combines coffee and Cannabidiol right across from Main Campus on Central. Cannabidiol is also known as CBD and is an extract from the marijuana plant. The compound is not psychoactive and has claims to health benefits but is not legal in every state. Hemp-derived CBD oil is federally legal for use, according to medicalnewstoday.com.
Owner Gabreal Bell says the place has a personal connection.
Hanging behind the glass cases with oils hangs Bell’s degree from Princeton, next to work from local artists. The back hallway displays framed testimonials of how CBD helped with chronic pain, anxiety and other ailments.
Bell, who grew up in New York, said that he tries to provide a place that creates community.
“This is a place where people can be comfortable and welcome,” Bell said. “I want to provide for the students, the artists and something for everyone.”
Open until 3 a.m., Bell said he also wanted to work to students’ hours.
The Gathering Spot is looking to expand to Northern New Mexico and open franchises in other states.
In 2007 New Mexican voters approved the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act that legalized medical marijuana in up to 8 ounces in a 90-day period.
According to FindLaw’s Marijuana Permits and License laws for New Mexico, in order to produce, distribute or dispense medical marijuana, a business must be licensed with the New Mexico Department of Health. NMDOH is not currently accepting applications for distributors, because the application period is closed.
Albuquerque City Council passed a resolution April 2 that decriminalized small amounts of marijuana. Mayor Tim Keller signed the bill into law last Friday.
The law states possession of under 1 ounce of marijuana is now punished by a $25 civil fine.
As a disclaimer, Lt. Trace Peck, the University of New Mexico Police Operations contact, said that smoking marijuana is a violation of the campus-wide smoking ban.
“It’s pretty simple for us,” Peck said. “The non-smoking policy for UNM includes marijuana.”
The offense would not be criminal, but rather a University Student Code of Conduct violation.
According to the Student Code of Conduct, “smoking and the use of tobacco products are prohibited at the University of New Mexico and its branches, except in a small number of outdoor designated smoking areas.” However, when UNM became a “Smoke-and Tobacco-free Campus” most of those designated areas were phased out in the Fall semester of 2017.
Danielle Prokop is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. She can contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @ProkopDani.