On March 7, lawmakers in New Mexico passed the Cannabis Regulation Act by a two-vote margin in 36-34 vote.
The bill still needs to pass the state’s Senate and gain a signature from the governor, but if it passes, it would establish New Mexico as the 11th state in the U.S. to legalize cannabis for adult use.
The bill sets out a regulatory system similar to the model developed by states like Colorado and Washington, with one notable exception: it would have cannabis sold in state-run retail shops.
The bill’s main sponsor State Rep. Javier Martinez released a statement via the Drug Policy Alliance following the vote.
“Legalizing and regulating the cannabis industry is the single most important thing we can do to dismantle international drug trades,” Martinez said following the victory. “The ‘War on Drugs’ hasn’t worked; the fight against those who are trafficking drugs into our country begins with legalization and regulation. This is our chance to lead the nation with a framework that protects medical cannabis patients, ensures public safety, and advances social justice for low income, communities of color.”
Across the halls in the State Senate, things are looking promising, according to State Senator Cliff Pirtle, who The Hill reported also served as an expert witness during the House debate.
“With the legalization of cannabis on the horizon, the [New Mexico] legislature, in a bi-partisan effort, moved this issue forward,” Pirtle said in a joint statement with Martinez. “Many concerns were debated in regards to cannabis, and this bill addresses many of those concerns. This bill is the best example of a balance of freedom and regulation that now has a good chance of passing the Senate.”
One of the reasons pro-cannabis lawmakers have confidence in the Senate vote is because of the concessions already given to Senate Republicans.
The Hill also reported the state-run shop policy was for those Republicans on the fence, so that much of the retail purchases that happen in New Mexico will be completely controlled by the state. However, the policy is a little fuzzy, as certain private entities will be allowed to sell cannabis if there is no state-run store nearby, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
Adults over the age of 21 will be able to visit these stores, both public and private, and possess up to two ounces of flowers and sixteen grams of hash on their person.
In another twist, the state will also issue personal production licenses for home growers. With that license, you’ll be able to grow and travel with six mature plants and have 12 plants total in a household. You can keep everything you grow securely at home, but can’t travel with more than two ounces. It’s worth noting that you can have a pretty wild afternoon with two ounces, so this all seems reasonable. As for local regulations, the act leaves room for cities to introduce their own rules as long as they don’t conflict with the state.
The Drug Policy Alliance has been involved in cannabis, along with wider drug policy and harm reduction campaigns, in New Mexico for years. DPA’s State Director Emily Kaltenbach weighed in following the vote Thursday. She noted not only did legalization of cannabis pass a New Mexico legislative chamber for the first time in state history, but it was also was a bipartisan effort.
“Cannabis reform was an issue that was untouchable just a few years ago. After tonight’s debate, I’m even more optimistic this bill has a path to the Governor’s desk,” Kaltenbach said.
Kaltenbach went on to note the New Mexican legislature voted to pass the bill for what she called the right reasons, like protecting kids, improving access for the sick and reinvesting in the communities hit the hardest by cannabis prohibition.
“This legislation is responsive to the lives of New Mexicans, not solely business interests,” Kaltenbach said. “HB 356 directs reinvestment into communities most harmed by prohibition, harm that has fallen hardest on Hispanic/Latino, Black and Native populations in New Mexico. Repairing the damage done by cannabis prohibition is not negotiable and HB 356 includes provisions that do just this.”
DPA also pointed to a May 2019 poll that found 63 percent of New Mexico adults support full legalization. Forty-six percent of those people considered their support for the issue strong; in 2016, only 6 percent of respondents were categorizing their support that way.
“It is time to stop criminalizing people for cannabis and begin to realize the economic and social benefits of having cannabis possession and sales regulated in New Mexico,” Kaltenbach said.
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