New Mexico just passed a recreational cannabis bill through committee in the House, and the next step is the House floor for debate. 

House Bill 12 passed through the House Taxation and Revenue Committee at an 8-4 margin. The bill is sponsored by Javier Martínez and Andrea Romero, both Democrats. 

The bill now features some concessions from those who voted on it in committee. Instead of specifying that cannabis taxes would go specifically to medical cannabis patients and communities disproportionately affected by the war on drugs, it doesn’t specify where the tax money will go. Those supporting the bills want to support those communities, but they also want fewer specifics set in stone. The provisions also changed the date that adult-use sales would start, and made it easier for employers to enforce anti-drug rules. 

Protecting Medical Marijuana and Moving Towards Equity

Martínez emphasizes that the key, important issues this bill takes care of are protecting the state’s medical program, focusing on equity for the future industry, and establishing the ground rules for the new industry. It is important to the bill’s sponsors that New Mexico cannabis truly offers equal opportunities. 

“Of course, the most important component as to why this is the best way to do it, is because of how we’re trying to reduce the harm in our communities and really soundly address the social justice and access to justice components of this, while we’re trying to create a brand new industry,” Romero explained. 

For the most part, the bill was supported after the provisions were made, but a few Republicans are concerned. Jason Harper, an opposing representative, feels that legalization is not the right move. 

“I do believe that 10 years from now, we’ll look back at the impact this has had on New Mexico and I just really believe, deeply, that we will all regret doing this,” Harper said. 

He also remembered a talk with a Colorado politician regarding legalization. 

“I can’t remember what political party she was, so I’m not even going to guess. But she did say that she was hoping that we would legalize marijuana so that her homeless camps would all move to New Mexico where it’s warmer,” Harper said. “So just something, something to think about.”

Another concern is that cannabis would lead to vice spending from the community, causing people to neglect more important things. However, Martínez thinks that is unfair. 

“There’s a host of other things that we make decisions on, and I don’t think that would be any different,” Martínez said. “This is a new industry and I think people will make decisions based on their income and based on their priorities.”

Now, the bill will get debated, and if it survives the floor, it will move through the Senate. If the bill is able to clear both those hurdles, Governor Lujan Grisham is expected to sign it, as she has pushed several times for legal cannabis. 

If New Mexico legalizes cannabis, many can look forward to increased economic prosperity and more social equity. However, the proposal will have to make it through several hurdles first.