This is a developing story. It has been updated to reflect the Senate’s amended passage of House Bill 2 at 8:30 p.m. Mountain Time March 31.
The New Mexico Legislature worked overtime, but adult-use cannabis legalization is now steered toward Democrat Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk after the House and Senate voted to pass legislation during a special session March 31.
The lower chamber cleared the three-time amended adult-use bill, 38-32, Wednesday afternoon, while the upper chamber added one more amendment before passing the bill, 22-15, Wednesday night on the Senate floor, where the bill previously stalled during the legislature’s 60-day regular session that concluded March 20, which sparked Lujan Grisham’s call for the special session.
The House reconvened shortly after the Senate’s passage to approve the upper chamber’s amendment to the bill, officially sending it to Lujan Grisham for signing—with her ink, New Mexico will become the 18th state to legalize adult-use cannabis.
One key amendment adopted in special session House Bill 2, which was a continuation of H.B. 12, the Cannabis Regulation Act that the body passed Feb. 26, includes raising the excise tax on cannabis products from 12% to 18% over the course of six years, beginning in 2024, according to chief sponsor Rep. Javier Martinez (D). Under the bill, roughly 4% of the excise tax would be distributed back to the local communities where the cannabis is sold, whether it’s a city or county municipality, Martinez said on the floor Wednesday.
The House Tax Committee approved the amended excise tax portion of the bill during the first day of the special session on March 30.
“As we embark on building a brand-new industry and we get to set the rules of the game for how this industry will play out … this is a good opportunity to actually raise revenue,” Martinez said. “If we’re going to do this, we might as well get the most we can get without overdoing it to the point where we are maybe undercutting our efforts to get rid of the illicit markets. So, that’s the number we settled on—18% excise tax.”
According to Martinez, economic projections indicate that adult-use legalization would create more than 11,000 jobs and generate $28.6 million in tax revenue in the first year of implementing a program, which H.B. 2 aims to activate no later than April 1, 2022.
Another amendment to H.B. 2 directs 100% of revenue distributions to the state’s general fund, Martinez said on floor.
“We heard from members of both parties; we heard from members of both chambers that earmarking dollars at this stage of the game, when the framework isn’t even legalized, when revenue isn’t even coming in yet, was not a good idea,” he said. “And, so, we’ve conceded that point. We removed all specialty funds that we had created under the legislation. That’s not to say those funds will not come back.”
Martinez said he’s committed to ensuring those funds are established through legislation in the next regular session, particularly a