State Watch — Verizon

New Mexico House votes to legalize marijuana

The New Mexico House late Thursday voted to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes, a deal that could make the state the 11th in the nation to allow adults to consume the drug recreationally. 

The House passed the bill without any Republican votes, and several moderate Democrats also voted against the measure. But the bill’s prime sponsor, state Rep. Javier Martinez (D), said he had worked with three Republicans in the state Senate to craft a compromise, giving the bill a shot to pass this session.

One Republican state senator, Cliff Pirtle, acted as an expert witness during the House debate over the bill.

{mosads}If adopted, the bill would create a legal sales regime similar to those in place in Washington and Colorado, the first states to legalize recreational marijuana for adults — with a few important differences. The bill would mostly create state-run marijuana stores, something that has not yet happened in other legalization states, a concession to Senate Republicans.

Some private businesses would be allowed to sell marijuana for recreational purposes if no state-run store is operating nearby, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

If passed, New Mexico’s legal marijuana regime would begin in the middle of next year. State budget analysts expect the legal market to generate at least $9 million in tax revenue during that first year of sales and as much as $90 million by the time the market is up to full speed in 2023.

The state Senate has until March 16 to act on a bill. Pirtle told the Journal the Senate had “plenty of time” to act before the session expires.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has not weighed in on the bill itself, but during her campaign for office last year she said she would work with the legislature “to move towards legalizing recreational cannabis in a way that improves public safety, boosts state revenues and allows for New Mexico businesses to grow into this new market.” 

Anti-legalization activists said they hoped time would run out before the Senate could act.

“This is no surprise as legalization bills have passed the New Mexico House before. The bill now heads to the Senate, where there already exists a legalization bill that still has to clear three committees before the session ends next Thursday. While the House has passed this bill, we are confident the Senate will see through the tactics of Big Tobacco and Big Pharma investors and put public health first,” said Luke Niforatos, a senior policy adviser at Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which opposes legalization.

Only one other state, Vermont, has legalized recreational marijuana through the legislature, rather than through a ballot initiative. Several other states, including New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island, are expected to debate their own legalization bills in the coming weeks or months.

Ten states and the District of Columbia allow recreational marijuana sales.

Updated at 9:30 a.m.

Tags legal marijuana Legislature Michelle Lujan Grisham New Mexico Recreational marijuana
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