New Mexico could be one of the next states to join the green wave as state lawmakers prepare a measure to legalize recreational marijuana for adults. Rep. Javier Martinez, a Democrat from Albuquerque, said recently that the legislation should be ready to introduce in the state legislature soon.
“It’s a big, complicated bill,” Martinez said. “We are wrapping up the final touches. This is a bill, at this point, five years in the making.”
Martinez, who has championed cannabis legalization each year he has been in office, said that this year’s bill is focused on three primary principles.
“The first one is protecting and enhancing the medical cannabis program which has been a godsend for many patients across the street,” he said. “The second principle is ensuring equity in the way we build out this industry, particularly repairing the war on drugs of people of color, and last but not least ensuring we have a smart regulatory and taxation framework, so we’re not over taxing an industry that’s just getting off its face so that the regulations are not overly burdensome on particularly the small business aspect of this industry.”
State Sees Economic Opportunity In Cannabis
New Mexico’s oil and gas industry, a major employer in the state, has seen a downturn due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy. Many state leaders, including Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, believe that legal cannabis will bring new opportunities to the state.
“This is a very bold, very robust attempt at diversifying the economy,” Martinez said.
“You know you are looking at tourism dollars coming in from out of state, you are looking at investments coming in that can help spur economic growth and not just in urban areas but perhaps, more importantly, rural communities,” he added.
Previous attempts to legalize recreational cannabis in New Mexico, which legalized medical marijuana in 2007, faced opposition from Republicans and conservative Democrats. But new faces in the legislature make passage of a legalization bill this year more likely.
“Voters purged most conservative Democrats from the New Mexico state Legislature in this year’s primary election,” the Santa Fe New Mexican reported last month. “Their departure means legalization of recreational marijuana has its best chance ever of passing.”
Bipartisan Effort Could Succeed In 2021
Even some Republicans have advocated for cannabis policy reform in New Mexico. Sen. Mark Moores was one of several GOP lawmakers to introduce a marijuana legalization bill in 2019 that would have established cannabis dispensaries operated by the state. He said recently that he is willing to work with Democrats to get the job done in 2021.
“I think there’s a number of senators and representatives on both sides who are willing to work on the issue,” Moores said.
Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf said he expects a legalization bill to pass in the lower chamber of the legislature during the 60-day session that began on January 19, and that he believes the bill will get a “much friendlier” response in the Senate this year.
“I think its chances are much improved,” Egolf said.
“Legalization is coming,” Martinez said during a legislative committee hearing in November. “Here in New Mexico, I think people are ready for it.”