New Mexico Lawmakers Pass Cannabis Legalization in Special Session

New lawmakers voted on Wednesday night to legalize cannabis for adult use, sending related bills to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who will sign it into law.  

“This is a significant victory for New Mexico,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement Wednesday night. 

“Workers will benefit from the opportunity to build careers in this new economy. Entrepreneurs will benefit from the opportunity to create lucrative new enterprises. The state and local governments will benefit from the additional revenue. Consumers will benefit from the standardization and regulation that comes with a bona fide industry. And those who have been harmed by this country’s failed war on drugs, disproportionately communities of color, will benefit from our state’s smart, fair and equitable new approach to past low-level convictions.”

Just over one month ago, HB 12, an adult use legalization bill introduced by Rep. Javier Martínez, passed in the House. Among the legalization bills introduced, HB 12 emerged as the leading proposal, and it was also favored by reform advocates for its focus on justice and . But then, as Cannabis Wire reported, the bill stalled in the Senate by the end of the session in March. Immediately, Lujan Grisham, who has been a vocal supporter of cannabis legalization for years, called a special session to “finish the job.”

In proclaiming the start of the special session this week, Lujan Grisham explicitly called for legalization “in a manner substantially similar to that proposed by House Bill 12.” 

Of the four cannabis-related bills introduced this week, one, HB 2, is similar to HB 12. The key difference is that language around expungement and resentencing has been pulled into another bill, SB 2. These are the two bills that lawmakers sent to the governor on Wednesday.

In opening remarks about the legislation in the House Wednesday morning, Martínez said, “House Bill 2 is a continuation of the work that we did this past session with House Bill 12, and, really, the continuation of several years worth of work,” referring to his introduction of similar legislation in years past. Then he turned to what is happening across the country, as New York earlier on Wednesday became the 16th state to legalize cannabis for adult use, as Cannabis Wire reported.

“Mr. Speaker, members of the body,” Martínez continued, “the United States of America is in the midst of a sea change when it comes to this issue.”

HB 2 would: allow for home cultivation; not allow localities to opt out of ; allow for microbusiness licensees to be vertically integrated; not set a limit on business licenses that can be issued; and create a regulatory body to oversee the state’s cannabis programs called the Cannabis Control Division, within the state’s Regulation & Licensing Department.

Sales are expected to begin in 2022, with priority given to existing medical cannabis licensees in the state and newly-licensed microbusinesses. The tax on sales will come to 20% once the 12% cannabis excise tax is added to the state’s existing sales tax. The excise tax rate is set to increase by 5% between 2025 and 2030.

The remaining bills include a competing adult use proposal from Sen. Cliff Pirtle, SB 3, which was rejected by lawmakers on Wednesday, and a spending bill to implement legalization and set up the adult use program, HB 1, which passed. 

Earlier this year, Martínez told Cannabis Wire that one potential hurdle for legalization this year was, simply, time. “Time is always a problem for big bills like this one,” he said.

But, due to changes in the legislature, he added, the path to legal adult use in New Mexico was more clear this year than in years past. Last year, adult use was tabled in the Senate. 

“I believe the path toward legalization has opened up more so than ever before,” he said at the time.

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