In New Mexico, recreational cannabis is coming closer to reality. Two separate bills—one sponsored by House Democrats, the other by Senate Republicans—were recently approved by committees. The variations between the two pieces of legislature serve to illustrate a growing divide on how marijuana legalization should proceed.
Having passed the House Judiciary Committee on Saturday, House Bill 356 is currently the closest to become law in the state, which has had a medicinal marijuana program since 2007. Among its regulations is the permission for individuals to possess up to two grams of cannabis and grow up to six plants for personal use. It would also clear the records of New Mexico residents with some low-level cannabis convictions.
“The House will probably vote for it,” one of its five co-sponsors Senator Jerry Ortíz y Pino told the media last month. “The Senate is going to be its usual thirty-years-behind-the-times self.”
But the Senate’s Republicans have recently accepted that recreational marijuana is an impending fact in their state, and have become more agile on cannabis issues. Last month, Senator Candace Gould proposed a bill to allow New Mexico school children to use doctor recommended medical marijuana in school. And now, New Mexico Republicans have introduced their own plan for recreational marijuana.
“We came to the conclusion that legalization is coming,” said Senator Cliff Pirtle in media reports. “How can we do it in a way that’s more responsible, so we don’t have the negative social impacts that Colorado and other states have had? So we wanted to sit down at the table and give our solution, as Republicans, to how we would like to see the regulation of cannabis.”
Significantly, the Republicans’ proposed legislation, Senate Bill 577, would not allow home grow operations, opting instead for complete control by a state cannabis control commission. Sales would be limited to government-operated retailers. That bill unanimously passed the Senate Public Affairs Committee.
Home grow bans and their possible political motivation have been in the news of late. Last week, it was revealed that major for-profit cannabis companies including MedMen, Columbia Care, Etain, PharmaCann, The Botanist and Acreage NY, and Vireo Health had sent a communication to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo lobbying against home grow being included in the state’s impending cannabis regulation. The report sent to Cuomo stated that home grows protect the unregulated market, can produce contaminated and untested cannabis, and cost state’s money in tax revenue.
A fiscal impact report issued by the Legislative Finance Committee on the House bill, which would go into effect on July 1 if passed by both of the state’s legislative bodies, estimates that recreational marijuana would bring in an annual revenue total of $33.9 million by 2023. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is a proponent of widening access to marijuana—most recently, she announced that she would be encouraging the state to add opioid addiction to the list of qualifying conditions for its medical marijuana program.
New Mexico is far from the only state where cannabis legislation has recently passed out of committee. As Marijuana Moment founder Tom Angell pointed out, similar victories have been won in Vermont, Hawaii, and New Hampshire over the past few weeks.
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