New Mexico’s bill to legalize recreational cannabis scoops 4-3 vote by Senate Public Affairs Committee

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New Mexico’s bill to legalize recreational cannabis scoops 4-3 vote by Senate Public Affairs Committee

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

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On Tuesday, January 28, 2020, a cannabis bill to legalize adult-use businesses in New Mexico towns passed its initial test. The Democrat-supported bill gained momentum after healthcare advocates and business owners fought for lawmakers to pass a measure that would support the existing medical cannabis market, which launched in 2007.

A vote of 4-3 pushed New Mexico’s cannabis bill forward, after the Senate Public Affairs Committee voted to subsidize medical cannabis for low-income patients and expunge former cannabis convictions with instant effect. In April, New Mexico became the 24th state to decriminalize cannabis possession. 

“This is the future,” said the executive director of the New Mexico Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, Ben Lewinger. “New Mexico doesn’t have time to waste precious years.”

Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque a Republican New Mexico Senate member who has been representing District 23 since January 2009 presented Senate Bill 64 as crowds congregated. So intense was the turnout that the committee was forced to assemble on the Senate floor to discuss New Mexico’s recreational cannabis bill.

New Mexico’s cannabis bill would banish the black market

Democratic Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino of Albuquerque was responsible for creating an initial draft of New Mexico’s recreational cannabis bill; containing language that, if effectuated, would eliminate the black market. The Office of the State Auditor voiced support for SB 64, as well as numerous members of the public, including spokespersons for pro-cannabis groups like Common Cause New Mexico and the New Mexico Foundation for Government. Nobody spoke in opposition of SB 64.

On the other hand, post-vote speculation regarding New Mexico’s cannabis bill has raised concerns about workplace and roadway safety. A nonpartisan group that constitutes members of the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce, the local Roman Catholic Church and Smart Approaches to Marijuana is worried that legalizing recreational cannabis in New Mexico could pose a threat to safety among roadsters and employees in the workplace.

“With New Mexico routinely ranked near the bottom of the country in terms of education, overall economy, opportunity, drug use, and crime, this is the worst possible option at the worst possible time,” said executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, Allen Sanchez.

Lincoln County Sheriff Robert Shepperd believes that law enforcement leaders in the state may struggle to instruct deputies on how to detect people who are driving under the influence of cannabis in New Mexico.

“In order to take a swab of the mouth, we need to get a warrant. How do we do that? There’s just a lot of questions. I think we need to slow down and not rush this,” Shepperd suggested.

New Mexico’s cannabis bill would require recreational dispensaries to sell medical products 

Based on the details of New Mexico’s recreational cannabis proposal, each licensed dispensary specializing in adult-use sales would also be obligated to provide medical cannabis patients with their medicine; the state’s list of qualifying conditions includes Alzheimer’s Disease, cancer, chronic pain, HIV/AIDS, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Ulcerative Colitis (UC). Moreover, in an attempt to prevent intoxicated driving incidents, New Mexico’s cannabis bill would designated tax revenue from legal weed sales to public education and law enforcement agency initiatives.

Although things looked promising at the January 28 meeting, it is uncertain as to whether or not New Mexico’s cannabis bill will progress further at the Senate Judiciary Committee. One of the major obstacles that could prevent SB 64 from advancing further is the fact that Las Cruces-based Democratic chairman Sen. Joseph Cervantes feels apprehensive about legalizing recreational cannabis in the state. Last year, a bipartisan legalization bill that concerned state-operated cannabis stores bagged approval in the House with a two-vote margin, before it fell flat in the Senate.