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New Mexico Governor Pushes Legalizing Cannabis to Boost Tax Revenue

May 28, 2020

In these dire times many states are looking at legalizing cannabis to help correct the economic damage caused by coronavirus shutdowns. After being asked about the possibility of legalizing cannabis, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) responded–albeit jokingly–that the state should end on a high note. She and her state have a right to be slightly irked considering many state programs have had to be cut due to the economic downturn from COVID-19.

CoronaVirus Economic Impact

The pandemic has caused significant financial challenges to the state. Had lawmakers acted on her proposal sooner during the regular session, when she urged them to, New Mexico could have had a slice of the projected $100 million expected cannabis tax revenue.  

While this would have been optimistic, there is little to show that New Mexico would have enacted a plan early enough to use the tax revenue–a number that is an estimate of the combined revenue from medical and adult-uses sales. 

Voters Decide on Legalizing Cannabis

While the legalization efforts did not work out as planned, the Governor has noted a willingness to let the voters decide. At the moment it is unlikely that legalizing cannabis will happen during the next session either. A bill submitted last month was rejected with just days left in the session. 

Lawmakers would still have to vote in favor of a proposal to get cannabis on the ballot, which may be more palatable given the states overwhelming support of legalization. Many residents view cannabis as the productive economic growth the state needs. Brining advocates in would help craft transparent regulations. 

A similar constitutional amendment was approved by a Senate committee in 2015, but it never made it further than that. It failed once more to get a committee vote after reintroduction a year later. In 2019, the New Mexico House of Representatives passed a bill legalizing cannabis and let the state run dispensaries. Again this proposal did not receive a floor vote.