New Mexico lawmakers approve revised adult-use cannabis bill

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Lawmakers in New Mexico just made their special legislative session extremely memorable. Why? Because the subject of legalizing recreational cannabis was put under the spotlight.

Amazingly, a revised cannabis legalization bill, titled “The Cannabis Regulation Act” was just approved by the House. Shortly after noon on Wednesday, March 31, House Bill 2 gained approval on the House floor with a 38–32 vote. It now heads to the Senate.

Some time before, accompanying legislation, SB 2, was given the go-ahead by the full Senate with a vote of 23–13. This chunk of legislation sets out to automatically expunge the vast majority of low-level cannabis crimes.

Previous attempts to launch an adult-use cannabis market in New Mexico failed

Amid the regular annual legislative session that concluded on March 20, attempts to legalize adult-use cannabis sales in New Mexico struggled to win lawmakers’ approval; mainly because lawmakers didn’t agree on a solid method of ensuring strict government oversight for a thriving market to transpire.

Soon after, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham requested that legislators congregate at the Statehouse once more to draft some kind of plan that highlighted a reasonable outlook for tax rates on cannabis sales, as well as cannabis conviction expungement and barriers to prevent child access to cannabis in New Mexico.

The special session, which kicked off on Tuesday, March 30, is sure to radically transform the landscape of legal weed across the state. Previously, Lujan Grisham’s administration has been working hard to oversee cannabis markets specifically, the amount of bud that is being cultivated and limits on the number of available licenses.

Automated cannabis expungement was a talking point at New Mexico’s special session 

A primary goal of the discussion among lawmakers relates to a segment of a bill that gained House approval in February, before stumbling in the Senate. That particular bill was sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Javier Martine. 

“It’s a big economic development tool that we have at our disposal. And it is the right thing to do,” said Martine, whose bill honed in on the importance of supporting communities that have been hardest hit by cannabis prohibition in New Mexico.

In order to reverse the problems caused by prohibition, he says, automated expungement procedures for previous cannabis crimes should be granted so as to ensure opportunities for small-scale entrepreneurs by means of obtaining “micro-licenses.”

Competing legislation to be pondered over by the Senate Committee

An imminent hearing by the Senate’s Committee of the Whole will contemplate the suitability of HB 2 in conjunction with a competing bill, SB 3. That proposal was put forward by Sen. Cliff Pirtle (R), who started spreading word of the draft legislation just one week ago. 

Pirtle, a Republican lawmaker, adopts a more simplified methodology in regards to legalizing adult-use cannabis in New Mexico. Unlike HB2, Pirtle’s bill outlines reduced taxes, does not impose social equity provisions and ensures that a much bigger chunk of tax revenue is distributed among local governments.

The two bills do share some similarities, however. Each would enable adults living in New Mexico to cultivate the plant in the comfort of their own home and cannabis businesses would be safeguarded from local government interference.

Should things go as planned, the governor could be inking the bills into law by the week’s end. Legal adult-use cannabis sales in New Mexico are anticipated to start by April 1, 2022, so long as HB 2 is effectuated.