The Roundhouse is splitting at the seams with cannabis-related Legislature this year. Count them: 13 bills are on the table relating to marijuana or hemp. Let's take a run at the most pertinent pieces of legislation.
Two bills are seeking to legalize recreational cannabis for adults over the age of 21. Both have been structured to leave the state's Medical Cannabis Program intact.
HB 356, the Cannabis Regulation Act, would allow adults to possess up to 2 ounces of cannabis or 16 grams of cannabis extract. Residents can also apply for a personal production license (up to two licensees per household) and grow cannabis at home as long as it's for personal use.
The bill, sponsored by six Democrats—Reps. Javier Martínez, Antonio Maestas, Daymon Ely, Deborah Armstrong and Angelica Rubio—will introduce a nine percent excise tax for all cannabis products to be added to the already existing sales tax. Cities and municipalities will also be given the option of adding their own excise tax of up to three percent.
Under this law licensed marijuana producers will be required to keep a portion of their inventory dedicated to the medical program.
SB 577, the bipartisan Cannabis Regulation Act, would legalize the possession of up to one half ounce of cannabis or four grams of cannabis extract for adults and would make it legal to display, purchase, obtain, transport or be under its influence.
The bill, sponsored by Sens. Mark Moores, Craig Brandt and Cliff Pirtle, would set up a state-run recreational market by creating the Cannabis Control Commission, an agency that would oversee production and sales. Taxes from sales would go to state, county and city governments with some of it earmarked for police training and substance abuse treatment. On top of normal sales tax, the bill would impose an excise tax of four percent on all cannabis products and allow cities and municipalities to add their own tax on top of that (which cannot exceed four percent).
Unlike House Bill 356, Senate Bill 577 will not allow individuals to grow cannabis at home for their own use. Language was included in the bill that will protect the rights of employers to enforce a drug-free workplace.
A notable alternative to legalization has been introduced by Sen. Joseph Cervantes: SB 323, Decrease Marijuana Penalties, will decriminalize first-time marijuana offenses involving less than half an ounce if passed—instead of jail time, offenders will be subject to a fine of $50 and issued a penalty assessment which will not be considered a criminal conviction. First-time offenders with more than half an ounce but less than an ounce will be found guilty of a misdemeanor and punished with a fine of not less than $50 and not more than $100 or by imprisonment of no more than 15 days. First-time offenders with more than an ounce but less than eight ounces will be found guilty of a misdemeanor and punished with a fine of not less than $100 and not more than $1,000 or by imprisonment of less than a year. Anything more than that will be a fourth degree felony under this law.
Meanwhile SB 408, Drug Possession as a Misdemeanor, would reduce the penalty of possession to a misdemeanor charge while retaining the threat of imprisonment. It's sponsored by Sen. Jacob Candelaria and Rep. Andrea Romero.
Three bills pertaining to the research and production of industrial hemp were introduced by lawmakers this session.
HB 63, Study Industrial Hemp Production and Sales, which would have allocated $100,000 to the state's agriculture department for the study of hemp production and sales, was passed over by the House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee.
HB 566, Hemp Research, would authorize and regulate research into hemp production with the goal of developing “plant varieties with increased productivity or that are adapted to the state's diverse ecosystem.” The act is sponsored by Reps. Rodolpho Martinez, Raymundo Lara, Nathan Small, Anthony Allison and Joanne Ferrary.
HB 581, the Hemp Manufacturing Act, Sponsored by Rep. Derrick Lente, would create regulations ensuring that licensed hemp producers have an avenue to send their product to hemp manufacturers.
A number of bills this year are aimed at making changes to the state's Medical Cannabis Program.
SB 404, 3-Year Medical Marijuana Certification, will extend renewal requirements for patient registration with the program from one year to three. SB 477, Medical Cannabis and Removal of Children, will bar parents' enrollment in the medical program from being grounds for interference by the state's family social services. SB 299, Medical Cannabis and Indian Nations, is an act with an emergency clause allowing for intergovernmental agreements between the state of New Mexico and any Native tribes and nations who wish to participate in the state's medical program.
And SB 406, Medical Marijuana Changes, sponsored by Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, encompasses some aspects of the above bills while creating a new advisory board, establishing new qualifying medical conditions, protecting patients in need of organ transplants, allows primary caregivers to cultivate plants, removes medical cannabis use as a violation for parole or probation and allows medical practitioners to recommend medical cannabis to any patient whom they believe can benefit from cannabis therapy.