Now that a few states have legalized recreational cannabis through legislature, more and more are considering this path to legal cannabis. In New Mexico, various pieces of legislation have been considered in the past, but never very seriously. Then last year, Governor Lujan Grisham appointed the Cannabis Legalization Working Group, a task force assigned to study potential legalization for the state. Thanks to the work of the task force, House Bill 160 was introduced and is the product of public meetings and 200 pages of comments from citizens of the state – and it has the governor’s full support.
“The Legislature has the opportunity to pass the largest job-creation program in New Mexico in a decade,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham in a press release. “Skeptics have been right to preach study and patience. I agree with their caution- and that’s why we haven’t’ been rushed into this issue. But if we are clear-eyed about the risks, we have to be clear-eyed about the opportunity.”
The proposed bill would require all cannabis products to be tested, ensuring that they are free of contaminants. Products would need to be clearly labeled with their THC content. The bill would also require that advertisements are not targeted toward youth in any way and would require investment in law enforcement training for identifying impaired driving of all kinds. It would create an initiative for the dismissal of cases involving cannabis-related crimes.
The legislation also calls for a 20 percent tax rate. The proposed tax rate is lower than many other states, but the intention is to encourage buyers to purchase their cannabis products legally with the intention of eliminating the black market.
HB 160 exempts residents who are already participants in the medical marijuana program from paying taxes on all cannabis products. It would necessitate growers to serve the medical marijuana market before the recreational market to ensure that patients who rely on cannabis as medicine are kept a priority.
It is expected that passing the bill and legalizing cannabis would create 11,000 new jobs in agriculture, manufacturing, regulation and retail, according to reports from the New Mexico governor’s office. An independent analyst also estimated the new industry would generate $620 million in sales by the fifth year.
“Let’s get it done this year and give New Mexicans yet another reason, yet another opportunity to stay here and work and build a fulfilling 21st-century career,” Gov. Grisham said.
While Governor Grisham is clearly set on seeing cannabis reform legislation, there might be only a slim chance it gets the attention it deserves in the current session. Not only is it a short 30-day session, but legislators have already said they intend to focus on the budget this time around. On the other hand, perhaps public support will push lawmakers into considering this bill sooner rather than later.