It is all but certain that New Mexico will now join the ranks of numerous other states that have passed measures to legalize recreational cannabis. The penultimate hurdle was passed after its Democrat-controlled Legislature advanced several new bills through both chambers on Wednesday, sending them on to the desk of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, a supporter of marijuana legalization legislation.
Despite criticism from Republican lawmakers that other legislation was more important and pressing to the people of New Mexico, pro-cannabis lawmakers used a special two-day legislative session to pass a bill to legalize recreational marijuana for adults over 21 and an accompanying bill that would expunge a variety of past marijuana convictions.
As a rebuttal to the Republican Legislature’s claims, Governor Grisham has suggested that “Legalized adult-use cannabis is one of the best moves we can make in our work to build a bona fide 21st century economy in New Mexico.” She noted further, “And New Mexicans are more than ready: poll after poll has demonstrated that our state wants this opportunity.”
Once signed, the New Mexico legislation would further expand legal recreational pot sales in the American Southwest by April 2022. New Mexico would join 16 other states that have now legalized recreational marijuana, with New York becoming the latest this Wednesday after Gov. Cuomo signed the bill into law. More importantly, New Mexico would be able to compete with states in the region that have already legalized, including California, Colorado, and Arizona, which passed legislation earlier this year.
New Mexico Recreational Weed Bill Seeks to Repairs the Damage From the War on Drugs
Included in the array of legislative measures is an initial excise tax of 12 percent on recreational cannabis sales that eventually would increase to 18 percent. This tax would be in addition to current gross receipts tax on sales that ranges from 5% to 9% annually.
Possession of cannabis would be decriminalized with residents 21 and up being allowed to hold up to 2 ounces (57 grams) of marijuana for personal use. Additionally, residents would be allowed to grow up to 6 plants at home or 12 plants per household respectively.
The legislation would also reform current medical cannabis laws by eliminating sales tax on medical marijuana and seeking to secure medicinal supplies for all communities.
The other major component of this legislation would focus on communities that have suffered disproportionality from the criminalization of marijuana and rigid policing policies. A lead sponsor of the legalization bill, Democratic State Representative Javier Martinez of Albuquerque believes this bill will provide protections to many marginalized citizens.
“The United States of America is in the midst of a sea change when it comes to this,” Rep. Martinez stated. “This bill begins to repair the harms of prohibition.”
Not only would subsequent criminal drug sentences of about 100 current prisoners be reexamined once the bill is signed into law, but past drug offenses would not automatically bar applicants for seeking marijuana business licenses. Furthermore, the odor of marijuana or suspicion of possession would no longer be sufficient evidence to stop, search, and detain individuals.
How New Mexico’s Recreational Cannabis Program Would Be Run
Rep. Martinez also strongly supports measures in the new bill that would afford greater equity to communities that might not otherwise gain access to the cannabis market. Small producers can apply for micro-licenses with low annual fees through a cannabis control division and can grow up to 200 marijuana plants, packaging and selling their own products.
A co-sponsor of the legalization bill, Representative Deborah Armstrong suggests New Mexico must acknowledge the drawbacks of early legalization in other states by mandating child proof packaging for marijuana users.
Under the new bill, state oversight of the cannabis industry would largely fall to a governor-appointed superintendent of the Regulation and Licensing Department. The superintendent would grant licenses to marijuana-related businesses for a processing fee. Initially, the agency would also have the power to limit marijuana production levels by major producers, thus maintaining leverage over market supplies and pricing. Local governments would have the authority to regulate locations and hours of operation of dispensaries, but ultimately would not be able to prohibit marijuana businesses from developing.
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