By Evan Johnson - Marijuana Moment
Two different visions for how marijuana should be legalized in New Mexico made progress on Saturday as legislative committees voted to advance separate bills to end cannabis prohibition.
One proposal that would legalize use of recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older and would task the state with licensing retailers now heads to the full House of Representatives after being passed out of the Judiciary Committee with a 7-3 vote.
The legislation would allow adults to grow their own cannabis, provided they receive a license from the state, and it also includes language to expunge arrest and conviction records for certain prior marijuana cases. The committee amended the bill to allow employers to maintain zero tolerance policies regarding marijuana use by workers.
Earlier this month, the proposal was approved by the House Health and Human Services Committee.
Shortly after the latest House victory on Saturday, the Senate Public Affairs Committee voted 5-0 to advance a separate bill that would legalize marijuana sales through state-run stores but prohibit personal growing of cannabis on small scale. Unlike the legislation in the other chamber, the Senate bill lacks language on expungement.
“Momentum is building for cannabis legalization in New Mexico,” Emily Kaltenbach, New Mexico state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, told Marijuana Moment in an email. “The fact that sixty-three percent of New Mexican adults across the state support legalization and, for the first time ever, there is bipartisan legislative support for legalization is a great indication that 2019 can be the year we get this done.”
“It is time to stop criminalizing people for cannabis and begin to realize the economic and social benefits of having cannabis possession and sales regulated in New Mexico”
The Senate bill must pass through two more committees before going to the floor of that chamber.
Both advancing bills propose varying taxes to be levied on marijuana, although medical cannabis sales would not be taxed under either measure.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) won election last year after campaigning on a pro-legalization platform. During her first State of the State speech in January, she pledged to make opioid addiction a qualifying condition to receive medical marijuana. Grisham has also called for any legislation legalizing cannabis to address workplace intoxication, public safety, underage use and regulation of edible products.
Earlier this month, lawmakers in Hawaii and New Hampshire voted to advance marijuana legalization bills, and a key committee in Vermont approved legislation to legalize cannabis sales in the state.