New Mexico Adult-Use Bill Stalls in Senate; Gov. Lujan Grisham to Call Special Session

Cannabis legalization remains unfinished, but governor applauds legislative efforts and supports getting the job done right.

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March 22, 2021

W. Scott McGill | Adobe Stock
The clock struck 12 on March 20 and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham still didn’t have an adult-use cannabis bill on her desk.

House Bill 12, which cleared the lower chamber of the state legislature, 39-31, on Feb. 26, would legalize adult-use sales and consumption for those 21 and older, allow possession of up to 2 ounces of cannabis flower or 16 grams of cannabis extract, levy a 12% excise tax on cannabis and provide reinvestments toward communities disproportionately affected by prohibition.

The Senate had until noon on Saturday, which marked the end of the first 60-day session of New Mexico’s 55th Legislature, to send the legalization initiative to Lujan Grisham for a signature, but the upper chamber postponed floor debate and focused on other bills, according to the Associated Press.

Lujan Grisham plans to call the New Mexico Legislature into a special session on a tentative March 31 to finish working on legalizing adult-use cannabis, she said in a press release Saturday.

“Legalized adult-use cannabis is one of the best moves we can make in our work to build a bona fide 21st century economy in New Mexico,” Lujan Grisham said. “And New Mexicans are more than ready: poll after poll has demonstrated that our state wants this opportunity.”

Nearly 75% of New Mexicans approve of cannabis legalization with provisions in place to ensure tax revenue is reinvested back into communities, including 94% of Democrats, 93% of Independents and 46% of Republicans, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.

“But rushing through amendments in the final hours of a session, when there’s a mountain of other very important work to be done, is not the right way to do something of this magnitude,” Lujan Grisham said. “No doubt the remote nature of this session, with public health safeguards in place, has slowed some items, though I applaud the legislature and staff for their incredible perseverance and productivity in the face of challenging circumstances.”

Proponents of broad cannabis reform in New Mexico have locked horns over varying means to legalization, including taxation, public safety, licensing and regulatory oversight, according to the AP.

Since the New Mexico Constitution does not afford direct voter approval of statutes, cannabis legalization is in the hands of lawmakers, which was the same boat states likes Illinois and Vermont rowed during their legalization processes, according to the AP.

After the New Mexico Senate faltered its legalization efforts on Saturday, Rep. Javier Martínez, who sponsored H.B. 12 with Reps. Andrea Romero and Deborah A. Armstrong, said in a tweet, “We’re closer than ever on cannabis, and I expect that we will get it done sooner rather than later without sacrificing our core principles of racial equity and justice.”

According to Martínez, 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. 12 aimed to activate no later than April 1, 2022.

Piggybacking Martínez’s comments, Lujan Grisham said New Mexico legislators will finish the job.

“I believe legalization will be one of the largest job-creation programs in state history, driving entrepreneurial opportunities statewide for decades to come,” she said. “I look forward to continuing to work with lawmakers to get the job done and done right.”