The New Mexico House of Representatives narrowly passed a compromise measure Thursday night that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the state. Representatives had been debating House Bill 356, the Cannabis Regulation Act. But one hour into discussions, Democratic Rep. Javier Martinez, the bill’s sponsor, introduced a “compromised floor substitute” that incorporates provisions of a Senate legalization measure, Senate Bill 577 by Republican Sen. Mark Moores. The substitute bill was approved by the House with a vote of 36-34, with all Republican representatives and 10 Democrats voting against the bill.
Under the compromise, adults 21 and older will be allowed to possess up to one ounce of cannabis for personal use, provided they also have a receipt for the marijuana from a licensed source. Cannabis would be available primarily from retail shops operated by the state, similar to some states regulation of alcohol sales. Privately owned dispensaries would only be allowed in areas that do not have a state-run marijuana outlet within 25 miles. Home cultivation of recreational cannabis would not be permitted, although registered medical marijuana patients would still be able to grow their medicine.
Martinez characterized requirements for a receipt to be carried with legal cannabis as a difficult concession to Senate Republicans.
“You can face criminal charges if you don’t have a receipt or other proof of purchase on your person to accompany your cannabis for personal use,” Martinez said.
Recreational cannabis cultivators and manufacturers would be licensed by the state and regulated by agriculture, health, and environmental officials. Sales of recreational cannabis would be subject to taxes of up to 17 percent. Lawmakers have estimated that recreational marijuana would generate $40 to $50 million dollars in tax revenue annually.
Before the vote, Martinez offered local media a pragmatic argument for legalizing cannabis.
“We know for a fact that it’s less harmful than tobacco, less harmful than alcohol, yet it is a multi-billion dollar industry that is operating underground, unregulated and untaxed,” he said.
N.M. Business Leaders Discuss Legalization
Last week, local news outlet Albuquerque Business First hosted a panel discussion on the potential economic impact of the legalization of recreational marijuana. At the forum, Shannon Jaramillo, the CEO of Cannabis NM Staffing, said that legalization would bring benefits to the state.
“Think about a dispensary as a casino and how many people visit casinos, or at Balloon Fiesta time,” said Jaramillo. “I think it would impact it positively.”
Yashoda Naidoo, who owns five restaurants in New Mexico, noted that money isn’t the only consideration when it comes to cannabis legalization.
“It does bring economic prosperity. However there are, in the long term, consequences to that for example, qualities of life,” said Naidoo.
The restaurateur also noted that legalization will impact all business owners in the state.
“I think it’s a lot about re-writing your handbook,” said Naidoo. “Having to sit down and decide how you’re going to be positively incorporating legalization into your business.”
Compromise Bill Heads to Senate
With the passage of the compromise bill by the House on Thursday, the measure now heads to the Senate for approval, with less than a week left in the legislative session. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has indicated tentative support for the legalization of recreational cannabis, provided the bill protects the medical marijuana market for patients and addresses issues of impaired driving and access by children.