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New Mexico Legalization Passes First Committee Hearing

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At the end of January, New Mexico lawmakers introduced two bills – one in the House and one in the Senate – that would make marijuana legal for adults 21 and older. With eight other states having jumped on board with a legal cannabis industry it’s no surprise that more and more lawmakers are finally seeing the benefits those states are reaping and want to see some of those same benefits in their home state as well.

While it’s only a start, House Bill 89 has just passed through the first of three committees it needs to be approved by before it can be voted on by the full House of Representatives and passed on to the Senate. This first round was held by the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee, who voted 3-1; from there it will go on to the House Business and Industry Committee for approval and then there is only one more stop before consideration by the House.

“There’s not a single thing that we can do to add more jobs to our state’s economy right now than this,” said Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, one of the bill’s sponsors. “We are talking about over $400 million injected into the legal business community. We are talking about more money for the state and less money for drug dealers. This is a no-brainer. If we want less crime, better schools, and a healthier state, let’s stop our outdated prohibition laws and do this right.”

If passed, House Bill 89 would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of cannabis in public (up to 2 ounces at home) or up to seven grams of concentrates. It would also allow the home cultivation of up to six plants (with a 12 plant limit per household), but it only allows you to keep 8 ounces of harvested cannabis from those plants. These specifics are along the lines of those passed by voters in other states where cannabis is already legal.

When it comes to retail sales, if this bill were to become law, it would utilize the existing medical marijuana system to get the ball rolling – but people wouldn’t actually be able to purchase marijuana until 2019. It would place a 15% statewide sales tax on cannabis and cannabis products – and local governments would have the right to impose an additional tax if they wanted to. Those tax funds are expected to be used to fund K-12 schools, public safety awareness programs, and additional funds for New Mexico’s Public Defenders Office.

So far, it’s looking promising that these bills will – at the very least – get a fair discussion out of lawmakers in New Mexico. If either of the bills were to pass, New Mexico would be one of the first states (if not the first, depending on how things go in other states) to have legalized recreational cannabis through legislature.

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