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New Mexico Governor Says it’s “High Time” to Legalize Marijuana

by Sarah Cawthon January 22, 2020

Lawmakers in New Mexico have filed a bill that would allow adults in the state to possess and purchase cannabis from licensed dispensaries just one day after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham included marijuana legalization in her agenda for the 2020 legislative session.

On Tuesday, January 21, Gov. Lujan Grisham addressed marijuana reform during her State of the State speech by announcing that it is “high time” to legalize marijuana in New Mexico. The governor, who ran on legalizing marijuana in 2018 has been adamant about legalizing recreational marijuana for the state during the 30-day legislative session that began on January 21.

“This is the fact: recreational cannabis can be the next frontier of our economic expansion,” Lujan Grisham said. “We can get in on the ground floor or we can try to play catch up—I know which one I prefer. And I know which one New Mexicans prefer.”

The bill, House Bill 160, outlines everything from types of licenses, social equity provisions and safety regulations to tax structure and revenue allocations.

The bill lists the types of licenses that will be available will include: cannabis courier, cannabis testing laboratory, cannabis manufacturer, integrated cannabis microbusiness, cannabis producer, cannabis producer, cannabis retailer, cannabis research laboratory and cannabis producer microbusiness.

The Cannabis Control Division within the Regulation and Licensing Department would establish application and licensing fees applicable to licenses for these commercial cannabis establishments. 

In addition to legalization efforts, the legislation, introduced by Sen. Jerry Ortiz and Rep. Javier Martinez, would include a number of social equity provisions including automatically expunging prior marijuana possession convictions and encouraging small and tribal-owned businesses to participate in the market.

Home growing would remain illegal under the bill, but provisions would decriminalize cultivation of up to three plants and six seedlings punishable by a $50 fine without the risk of jail time. However, anything over the allowed amount would result in a felony charge.

Additionally, it would eliminate the gross receipts tax for medical cannabis sales, require recreational dispensaries to service registered medical marijuana patients and create a subsidy program for low-income patients so that they may access medical marijuana. The bill also outlines other regulations aimed at protecting public safety regarding strict advertising, labeling and packaging requirements.  

An excise tax of nine percent would be imposed on all recreational cannabis sales with the revenue from those taxes going toward public health education for substance treatment programs, housing and job training, educational programs throughout the state and preventing youth from obtaining marijuana.

New Mexican cities and counties would also not be given the option to opt out of recreational marijuana sales thanks to a rebooted proposal from legislators that is seeking to provide access to marijuana for the current 80,000 medical marijuana patients. Every recreational dispensary would be required to offer medical marijuana to patients with a qualifying medical condition. Legislators are aiming to rid the state of the black market and avoid a patch-quilt of regulations that has plagued several other states.

The program would be overseen by the state, but counties and cities would be allowed control over local zoning restrictions and hours of dispensary operation. The state would also give local jurisdictions the right to levy their own taxes on marijuana sales.

In 2019, marijuana legalization reform legislation was able to pass the full House of Representatives and Senate committees, but ultimately stalled. Gov. Lujan Grisham then assembled a panel of experts who released their report that detailed their recommendations for a marijuana legalization plan in October 2019 and provided a road map for lawmakers to follow during the 30-day legislative session, that is now officially underway.

While legalization didn’t come to fruition last session, the governor did sign a more limited bill to decriminalize marijuana possession.

Last month, the group commissioned a poll showing that 75 percent of New Mexicans are in favor of legalization. If the legislature is able to pass House Bill 160, the state would likely become the twelfth state to legalize recreational marijuana.

Begin Preparing for Georgia Medical Cannabis Business Applications DT Dispensary Application Guide & Checklist-1

To begin preparing for future New Mexico marijuana business opportunities, download our Marijuana Business Application Guide and Checklist, which includes a step-by-step checklist of all action items needed to complete and establish a marijuana business.

The guide provides a step-by-step checklist of over 100 action items to complete prior to submitting your application for a marijuana business license. It covers topics from real estate and financial planning to staffing and team building activities.