New Mexico Set to Legalize Adult-Use Cannabis
Hours after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an adult-use cannabis bill into law, lawmakers about 2,000 miles to the west also passed a bill (HB 2) that will legalize, regulate and tax marijuana for adults 21 and over in New Mexico.
A separate bill (SB 2) which expunges the arrest and conviction records for certain cannabis offenses, also passed the New Mexico House and Senate on Wednesday.
Both bills are headed to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk for signatures.
Lujan Grisham — who called for a special legislative session so lawmakers could iron out the details of the two bills — has pledged to sign them into law.
When she does, New Mexco will become the 17th U.S. state to legalize adult-use cannabis (pending the outcome of a challenge to a referendum in South Dakota).
“New Mexico will be the next state to legalize cannabis, establishing a new industry that will create immense economic opportunity in communities both rural and urban while addressing and rectifying the harmful impacts of criminalization,” Lujan Grisham tweeted on Thursday.
Under the amended HB 2, known as the Cannabis Regulation Act, adults will be permitted to possess up to two ounces of cannabis, up to 16 grams of cannabis concentrate, and up to 800 milligrams of cannabis edibles.
New Mexico residents will also be allowed to cultivate up to six mature plants and six immature plants per household.
Meanwhile, a “Cannabis Control Division” tasked with licensing and regulating cannabis businesses will be established, and 10 types of business permits will be available: couriers, producers, manufacturers, retailers, microbusinesses, cannabis consumption areas, vertically integrated establishments, and integrated microbusinesses.
Legal sales are slated to being by April 1, 2022, and there is currently no cap on the number of licenses businesses can obtain. On-site consumption will also be permitted.
“This is a significant victory for New Mexico,” Lujan Grisham said via a statement. “Workers will benefit from the opportunity to build careers in this new economy. Entrepreneurs will benefit from the opportunity to create lucrative new enterprises. The state and local governments will benefit from the additional revenue.”
Under the legislation, a 12% cannabis excise tax will be assessed at the retail level until 2025. That rate increases by 1% every year until it hits 18% on July 1, 2030 and is in addition to the state’s existing 8% retail sales tax.
An estimated $30 million in tax revenue could be generated at in 2023, including $10 million for local governments, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
Meanwhile, New Frontier Data estimates there are roughly 364,000 annual cannabis consumers in New Mexico, which has a population of about 2 million.
“Consumers will benefit from the standardization and regulation that comes with a bona fide industry,” Lujan Grisham continued. “And those who have been harmed by this country’s failed war on drugs, disproportionately communities of color, will benefit from our state’s smart, fair and equitable new approach to past low-level convictions.”
According to the New Mexico House Democrats, 74% of New Mexicans support the legalization of adult-use cannabis.
That figure is consistent with national polling from Gallup, which has found that nearly 70% of Americans support federal legalization.
“A majority of New Mexicans have made it clear that they support legalizing and regulating cannabis sales,” Marijuana Policy Project legislative analyst Matt Simon said via a statement. “Sixteen states — including New Mexico’s neighbors, Arizona and Colorado — have legalized cannabis for adults 21 and older, and now New Mexico is following suit.”
New Mexico joins Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont, which have legalized the sale of adult-use cannabis.
South Dakota voters also approved adult-use cannabis last November, however a state judge ruled last month that the measure, Amendment A, was unconstitutional. A state Supreme Court appeal is currently pending.
Several other states — including Connecticut, Delaware, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Virginia, are considering legalization.
“This year is proving to be nothing short of monumental for the cannabis policy reform movement,” Marijuana Policy Project executive director Steve Hawkins said. “State legislatures across the nation are recognizing the urgent need to end cannabis prohibition and are rising to the challenge.”
However, even as the green wave sweeps across the nation, there are still groups determined to halt legalization efforts.
The anti-cannabis lobbying group Smart Approaches to Marijuana had previously claimed credit for defeating legalization in New Mexico.
“We did it,” SAM president Kevin Sabet exclaimed prematurely on Twitter last month.
“For the third year in a row, New Mexico lawmakers have rejected Big Pot’s attempt to expand into the state,” he said via a statement.
Sabet would later be forced to walk that comment back, issuing a follow-up statement on Thursday saying the result of the special session was “not what we had hoped.”
“We are proud of the work we have done over the last three years to build a coalition to oppose and ultimately defeat a well-organized legalization push for two years in a row.”
Sabet — who is currently hawking a “remarkable and shocking” book called Smokescreen that promises to “reveal the hidden dangers” of cannabis — has also vowed to “expose the industry’s deceitful practices and hold lawmakers accountable for the harms this industry will bring upon New Mexico.”
It's also worth noting that Sabet has admitted he "doesn't care" if all 50 states legalize cannabis.
"We will always educate, inform, and advocate for health and justice," he said. "And we won’t ever forget to hold this industry liable."