New Mexico lawmakers voted to advance a marijuana legalization bill out of committee on Saturday.
The legislation, if it passes through the legislature and is signed into law, will allow adults 21 and older to possess up to two ounces of cannabis and up to 16 grams of marijuana extracts, permit the cultivation of up to six plants for personal use, establish a regulated commercial cannabis market and expunge the records of those with certain prior marijuana-related convictions.
The vote in the House Health and Human Services Committee was five in favor of the bill to two against.
Earlier this week, a Senate committee in Hawaii also voted to approve marijuana legalization legislation. Together, the two victories mark the start of what advocates believe could be a year in which a number of states across the country enact new laws to end cannabis prohibition.
So far, five House members are signed on as cosponsors of the New Mexico bill, including Rep. Deborah Armstrong (D), who is the chair of the same panel that hosted the hearing.
The proposal next heads to House Judiciary Committee and, if approved there, to the floor.
House Speaker Rep. Brian Egolf (D) said last year that marijuana legalization legislation “would probably pass the House” if it came to a vote. And while the Senate has historically resisted marijuana reform, even lawmakers who are personally opposed to legalization, like Sen. Mark Moores (R), have said they recognize “the political reality that it is here.”
“I want to make sure we have a system that is extremely well-regulated, and the ability to take those revenues and mitigate some of those negative social impacts that marijuana has,” Moores said.
Under the current bill, cannabis sales would be taxed at nine percent, and local municipalities or counties would be given the option to impose an addition three percent tax. Revenue from those taxes would go toward several funds meant to support educational programs, substance use disorder treatment services, job placement and impaired driving prevention, among other services.
“We have the chance to pass an innovative legalization bill that stays true to New Mexican values and what we care most about: the wellbeing of our children, healthy and safe communities, and a stronger economic future,” Emily Kaltenbach, the New Mexico state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, told Marijuana Moment. “Cannabis prohibition has fueled mass criminalization and we have an ethical obligation to repair the disproportionate harms inflicted on Latino, Black and Native people.”
A fiscal impact report on the bill prepared by the Legislative Finance Committee projects that legalization would generate $33.9 million in annual revenues for the state by Fiscal Year 2023, with an additional $22.1 million coming in for municipalities and counties.
“This legislation is responsive to the lives of New Mexicans, not solely business interests,” Kaltenbach said. “New Mexicans agree that prohibition of cannabis has failed and we must replace it with a responsible, regulated system that reinvests in our children and communities.”
It remains to be seen whether the bill will ultimately clear both chambers of the legislature, but the chances are markedly improved given the election of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), who campaigned last year on a pro-legalization platform.
Grisham voted in favor of several cannabis reform amendments during her time in Congress, and she’s said that a legal marijuana system would bring hundreds of millions of dollars to New Mexico’s economy.”
During her first State of the State speech last month, the governor said she is directing officials to add opioid addiction as a medical cannabis qualifying condition.