Last week, New Mexico took a major step towards legalizing recreational marijuana. The state House of Representatives voted to pass an adult-use cannabis legalization bill by a margin of two votes, 36-34. The legislation underwent several adaptations to garner support from both sides of the aisle.
Representatives Javier Martinez and Antonio Maestas co-sponsored House Bill 356 that creates a system for cannabis retailers and expunges the records for convicts who were charged with marijuana related crimes that could soon be legal. Representative Maestas admitted freely that the original version of the adult-use cannabis legalization bill had been modified as compromise with republicans. "This compromise is in the spirit of bipartisanship," Maestas tweeted.
Some of the major changes include having the state government authorize the regulatory commission to directly run and manage cannabis retailers. However, private marijuana dispensaries would be permitted and licensed in areas where there isn’t a government-run adult-use retailer within 25 miles. Representative Martinez remarked on the bipartisan nature of this bill saying, “We have what could potentially be a watershed moment in the recreational use of cannabis legalization movement.”
Manufacturers and cultivators will have the advantage of being privately licensed, however under the new version of the adult-use cannabis legalization bill no home grows will be allowed for recreational use. Medical marijuana patients will have the exclusive allowance of growing in their own home.
There are some interesting regulations in regards to adult-use consumers. New Mexico will mandate that all recreational marijuana customers must obtain and carry a copy of the receipt of each purchase. Anyone stopped by law enforcement who is in possession of marijuana without a receipt could be subject to criminal charges. The amount of cannabis consumers can possess has also been decreased from two ounces to one ounce in the approved version of the legalization bill.
Both Representatives Martinez and Maestas readily admit that the amendment to have state-run dispensaries will prevent the proliferation of private storefronts popping up all over city streets. The New Mexico Departments of Agriculture, Environment and Health would provide regulatory oversight for their designated parts of the recreational marijuana industry.
Rep. Maestas noted that, “Folks have been waiting 82 year for this vote. Prohibition does not work. We must prosecute the war against drugs differently than we are now.” The benefits of regulating and taxing marijuana not only prevents drug-related crimes but generates millions of dollars in tax revenue for the state.
House Democrats were quick to tout the projections after the adult-use cannabis legalization bill was passed. “In the first year, cannabis legalization is projected to generate 11,000 jobs and more than $70 million in tax revenue.” The funds generated from taxing cannabis sales will be directed toward road safety, and education, and investing in communities disproportionately harmed by prohibition and problematic drug use.