New Mexico Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Legalization Bill In Committee

A New Mexico House committee approved a comprehensive marijuana legalization bill on Monday.

The legislation from Rep. Javier Martinez (D) is one of multiple legalization proposals that have been introduced in the 2021 session. Another reform bill sponsored by Rep. Tara Lujan (D) was also considered by the Health & Human Services Committee on Monday but was rejected.

The panel issued a do-pass recommendation for Martinez’s bill in a 7-4 vote, advancing it to additional committees before it could potentially come up for a full floor vote. The Lujan legislation was tabled in a 7-4 vote.

Under the approved measure, adults 21 and older would be allowed to possess “at least” two ounces of cannabis and grow up to six mature and six immature plants for personal use. It would also create a system of regulated and taxed cannabis sales.

The legislation is favored by reform advocates because, unlike the other House and Senate measures, it would specifically use tax revenue from marijuana sales to support reinvestment in communities most impacted by the war on drugs. It also stands out for including provisions to automatically expunge prior cannabis convictions.

Martinez’s proposal would require rules for the market to be implemented by January 2022. Existing medical marijuana dispensaries, meanwhile, would be allowed to launch adult-use sales starting in October.

The committee held a hearing on both House bills on Saturday, but the meeting ran long and so members did not vote to advance it. They did adopt a substitute version of the Martinez proposal during the initial meeting, however.

A provision requiring people to be able to prove that marijuana they possess was purchased from a lawful source was deleted. Members also nixed a provision limiting sales of paraphernalia to licensed dispensaries.

Further, the revised committee-approved bill would also ensure that tribal governments are able to participate in the new industry. It would also allow small businesses that obtain so-called microbusiness licenses to begin operating before larger businesses in order to give them a leg up.

News Reporter