State House panel advances New Mexico adult-use cannabis bill

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

On Monday, February 15, a New Mexico legislative committee pushed ahead with a social equity and microbusiness-focused adult-use cannabis legalization bill. 

House Bill 12 was advanced by the New Mexico House Health Committee with a vote of 7-4. It now awaits review from the House Tax Committee. Meanwhile, a more industry-focused measure that did not contain social equity provisions House Bill 17 was tabled.

Based on details of the bill, HB 12 demands that rules be crafted by January 1, 2022. The legal framework states that license application ought to be accepted by July 1, 2022. Existing medical cannabis operators scattered around the state could begin adult-use sales on October 1, 2021.

The recent move suggests that the Legislature is edging ever-closer to cannabis reform and is making an effort to ensure social justice and equity provisions are contained in all of the state’s recreational legalization attempts.

What does New Mexico’s adult-use cannabis initiative entail?

Numerous facets of cannabis reform are bundled into the social equity and microbusiness-focused adult-use legalization bill that was recently advanced by the New Mexico House Health Committee. The bill, which was pitched by Democratic state Rep. Andrea Romero of Santa Fe, was co-sponsored by Albuquerque Democratic Reps. Javier Martínez and Deborah Armstrong.

As per the language contained in the bill, current taxes on medical cannabis would be waived and a state excise tax of nine percent added to recreational cannabis sales. An additional four percent tax could be imposed by local governments. Moreover, approximately one-fifth of state tax revenues would be used to help fund the drug for medical cannabis patients who find themselves in a sticky financial situation.

An additional one-third of revenues would be funneled into grants that help restore communities impacted by prohibition, as well as contribute to substance abuse prevention programs and education for youths.

“This gives us a proactive opportunity to respond to the harms of the drug war,” Romero declared to the panel of legislators. “First and foremost this bill protects medical patients. We want to ensure an adequate supply for them.”

Listed below are a few more focal points of New Mexico’s adult-use cannabis initiative:

  • Develop a microbusiness license category that will offer small New Mexican companies the opportunity to participate in an adult-use sector before other applicants.
  • Request that the state develop a plan to ensure that licensing opportunities are as diverse as possible.
  • Financially support communities that have been hardest hit by prohibition through investing a major portion of cannabis sales revenue into such communities.
  • Invite Native American communities to get involved in New Mexico’s recreational market upon regulator agreement.

New Mexico’s cannabis legalization efforts have stumbled in the past couple of years

Despite the fact that the green plant is still illegal for recreational purposes, cannabis in New Mexico has been decriminalized since July 2019. While the House passed a bill to legalize the plant for recreational use in March of 2019, legalization is still up for debate. Conversely, former Governor Bill Richardson signed a medical cannabis bill into effect way back in 2007.

“New Mexicans are absolutely ready to see [cannabis] legalization become a reality in the state, but they have made it clear that repairing the damage done by the drug war is non-negotiable,” said senior director of the Drug Policy Alliance for New Mexico, Emily Kaltenbach, in an official statement.

The Alliance has long been pushing for legalization and is acknowledged as a lead advocacy group in the state. Although previous efforts have fallen flat, experts remain confident that New Mexico’s prime position will lead to adult-use cannabis legalization in 2021. Nonetheless, for this to happen, something’s got to give.

“Any legislation considered this session must reinvest back into communities most harmed by drug prohibition, particularly Hispanic/Latino, Black and Native populations in New Mexico,” Kaltenbach concluded.