New Mexico passes bill to legalize marijuana

A New Mexico bill to legalize recreational marijuana in the state for adults ages 21 and older was approved by legislators in special session Wednesday night.

The measure was being sent to a supportive Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for her signature as New Mexico was set to become the latest state to legalize marijuana.

The state Senate voted 22-15 Wednesday night to endorse a House-approved legalization bill. A short time later, the House met very briefly for concurrence with some Senate amendments.

This bill levies new taxes on recreational cannabis sales and closely regulates business licenses and production, which will be allowed to begin in March 2022. The bill, which the governor has said she will sign,  includes the following provisions:

  • Recreational cannabis will be legal in 2022
  • There will be a maximum 20% tax on it
  • The state will regulate sellers
  • There will be no limits on the amount of licenses issued
  • People who have been convicted of possessing it for personal use will have their criminal record expunged
  • Eventually, there will be a cap on the number of plants sellers can grow.

The recreational cannabis bill also includes a provision barring current members of the state lawmakers from obtaining licenses as cannabis producers until July of 2026.

A companion measure would automatically erase some marijuana convictions and reconsider criminal sentences for about 100 prisoners.

She is expected to sign a package of bills that provide a regulatory framework for recreational marijuana sales, expungement procedures and $6 million in initial state spending on oversight and enforcement.

New Mexico is poised to join 16 states that have legalized marijuana, mostly through direct ballot initiatives. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a legalization bill Wednesday, and a proposal in Virginia is awaiting the governor’s signature.

New Mexico flirted with cannabis legalization in the 1990s, when then-Gov. Gary Johnson challenged taboos against decriminalization in defiance of Republican allies. A medical marijuana program founded in 2007 has attracted more than 100,000 patients.

The Democrat-dominated Legislature has been reticent to legalize until now. Several hard line opponents of legalization in the state Senate were voted out of office by Democrats in 2020 primary elections, in a shift that paved the way for Wednesday’s historic vote.

News Reporter