New Mexico primed to join US recreational pot wave

Gov. Michelle Grisham is expected to sign a bill that lawmakers approved Wednesday


By Algernon D'Ammassa
Las Cruces Sun-News, N.M.

SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico aimed to become the latest state to legalize cannabis for adult use when lawmakers approved a bill regulating a new cannabis industry Wednesday night, sending it to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for her signature.

The Cannabis Regulation Act decriminalizes possession and use of cannabis for residents aged 21 and older, and establishes a regulatory and licensing framework for commercial production and sales. Commercial sales of cannabis to New Mexico adults would begin no later than April 1, 2022.

The Democratic-led New Mexico Legislature convened a two-day special session Tuesday, just 10 days after its 60-day regular session ended without completing a bill.

For the special session, cannabis legislation and related justice measures were broken up into two bills: One establishing the regulatory and licensing framework, including plant count limits for producers as well as caps on the number of plants for individuals and households; and the other addressing expungement of criminal records and sentences.

[Police1 research: Policing in an era of legal marijuana]

Shortly after 9 p.m. Wednesday, the state House concurred on an amended cannabis bill that passed the Senate on a 22-15 vote after two long days of detailed and, at times, contentious debate. Just before 9:30 p.m., the House followed the Senate in adjourning the special session.

Republicans and some Democrats dissented from the legalization bill, which proponents promised would open a lucrative industry for producers in the state while preserving public safety and redressing historic harms — particularly to people of color and lower incomes — from decades of criminalization of cannabis use.

Commonly known as marijuana, cannabis is still classified as an illegal narcotic under federal law, while increasingly states (with the addition this week of New York) have begun to legalize adult use.

During debate over the expungement bill, state Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D- Albuquerque, said the legislation was an effort "to undo the worst consequences of what's been called 'the war on drugs,'" while Senate minority leader Greg Baca, R- Belen, noted the bill had been amended 12 times and called it "rushed and poorly written."

Nonetheless, it passed the Senate 23-13 and ultimately cleared the House by a vote of 41-28, sending it on its way to the governor's desk.

After both chambers adjourned the special session, Lujan Grisham confirmed via Twitter that her "signing pen is ready" for HB 2 when it reaches her office.

(c)2021 the Las Cruces Sun-News (Las Cruces, N.M.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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