The state of New Mexico has the potential to be one of the next states to legalize marijuana for adult use, as a bill was just passed by the state’s House of Representatives that would do just that. However, the way this bill is written is a perfect example of how some approaches to legalization are clearly not the best options. This legislation has some flaws that could create significant issues if it becomes law, regardless of how important it is to move away from criminalization and prohibition.
House Bill 356 is a combination of various negotiations between Democrats and Republicans – and yet it was passed without a single Republican vote and without the vote of some moderate Democrats. However, it was passed, which means it will go on to the Senate for consideration and review. While this may seem hopeful for many, the fact that the Senate has their own version of the bill that remains in committee review with only a few days left in the legislative session means that the chances of this bill picking up that pace is unlikely.
“You can face criminal charges if you don’t have a receipt or other proof of purchase on your person to accompany your cannabis for personal use,” said Martinez, describing that provision as a difficult concession to Senate Republicans.
The biggest flaw with this bill is the fact that it would require proof of purchase for legal marijuana. This means that it would be legal to carry up to an ounce, but only if the individual in possession was able to prove it was purchased from a state-run dispensary. Otherwise, possessing cannabis would still be considered illegal – and could result in arrest.
“The governor is encouraged by the possibility of bipartisan and bicameral legislation addressing recreational cannabis,” Lujan Grisham spokesman Nora Sackett said Saturday. “She has said all along she will sign a bill with the proper safeguards for public safety and workplace regulation, among other things. If the Legislature can check those boxes, bring it on.”
Other “safeguards” put into House Bill 356 include the fact that a state commission would operate retail locations – but to prevent a “big tobacco” type situation, the bill would allow only state-run dispensaries. The only way a private shop could be opened is if no state-run facilities were within 25 miles. This is supposed to help prevent clusters of cannabis stores opening in the same area – but it also lessens the potential for new businesses within the newly legal industry.
While they flaunt that this bill could create 11,000 jobs, just think about the possibilities for economic growth if there were business licenses allowed for dispensaries, as well as growers and other industry professionals. How many more jobs could be created then?
They also truly seem believe that the required receipts will encourage legal sales and keep people from buying on the black market. In reality, it’s a new and unique way to arrest people for cannabis possession. This bill is far from ideal, and perhaps lawmakers in New Mexico need to take another look at what is working in other states around the country before passing such legislation.