Recreational cannabis bill passes in New Mexico House, goes to Senate

Taos News reports…

Rep. Javier Martinez D-Albuquerque, one of the sponsors of HB 12, said the legislation creates “a brand-new multimillion dollar industry. It is a big deal — and it should be.”

If the bill becomes law, there would be no criminal penalties for possession of up to 2 ounces of cannabis, and people could store a larger amount at their homes. They also could grow up to 12 plants — six mature, six immature — for personal use, but could not sell the substance without a license.

Initial estimates from Martinez and other supporters said tax revenue raised by cannabis sales would reach at least $50 million. However, the bill’s fiscal impact report — citing a number of costs associated with implementing the program — puts that figure closer to $15 million for the state and another $8 million or more for counties.

“I’m not exactly sure we’re gonna see any big boom,” said Rep. Rod Montoya, R-Farmington. He noted many New Mexicans live in poverty, and some might spend money on cannabis instead of something else they would normally buy.

Montoya and Rep. Randall Crowder, R-Clovis, introduced amendments that would have allowed county governments to prohibit cannabis sales within their boundaries, as some counties have done in the past with alcohol. But the amendments failed to gain traction after Martinez said they could cause problems for local law enforcement agencies, among other issues. House members voted to reject the amendments.

Friday’s vote on the bill did not fall strictly along party lines. Six Democrats and Phelps Anderson, a former Republican who recently switcheded the party affiliation on his voter registration to “decline to state,” joined the 24 Republicans in the House in opposing the measure.

The nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance released a statement Friday lauding the passage of what it called a “social justice-focused cannabis legalization bill.”

Under HB 12, about a third of the tax revenue generated by cannabis sales would fund issues related to substance, help communities impacted most by drug use and provide cannabis abstinence education for children and teens.

Martinez said criminalizing the use of cannabis unfairly impacts people of color, who often are caught up in the criminal justice system for using the drug.

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