During this year's 60-day legislative session, we saw a fair number of cannabis-related bills being considered by the state's lawmakers. A survey conducted last year by Research & Polling Inc. found that 60 percent of voters in New Mexico would support a bill to legalize recreational cannabis. And in every region polled, the majority of voters were supporters, too. It seems lawmakers are finally ready to start listening to their constituents and at least discuss cannabis issues.
This year a number of good bills were shot down, but plenty of important ones were passed.
SB 204, Medical Marijuana in Schools, Sponsored by Sen. Candace Gould, Rep. Gail Armstrong and Sen. Jacob Candelaria, allows public school students with a cannabis treatment plan (agreed upon by their guardians and their school's principal) to have marijuana administered to them by school staff.
SB 323, Decrease Marijuana Penalties, introduced by Sen. Joseph Cervantes, decriminalizes first-time marijuana offenses involving less than half an ounce. Instead of jail time, offenders are now subject to a fine of $50 and are issued a penalty assessment which is not considered a criminal conviction. Anyone caught possessing more than eight ounces of cannabis will receive a fourth degree felony.
SB 404, 3-Year Medical Marijuana Certification, sponsored by Sen. Bill O'Neill and Rep. Dayan Hochman-Vigil, extends renewal requirements for patient registration with the program from one year to three.
SB 406, Medical Marijuana Changes, sponsored by Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, encompasses aspects of some of the dead bills while creating a new advisory board, establishing new qualifying medical conditions, protecting patients in need of organ transplants, allowing primary caregivers to cultivate plants, removing medical cannabis use as a violation for parole or probation and allowing medical practitioners to recommend medical cannabis to any patient whom they believe can benefit from its use.
HB 581, the Hemp Manufacturing Act, Sponsored by Rep. Derrick Lente, will create regulations ensuring that licensed hemp producers have an avenue to send their product to hemp manufacturers if signed into law.
HB 356, the Cannabis Regulation Act, was passed by the New Mexico House in a 36 to 34 vote after receiving some major alterations that made it appear more like another bill, SB 577 (which was tabled). If it had passed, it would have made it legal for anyone over the age of 21 to possess up to one ounce of cannabis (as long as they have the sales receipt from a licensed retailer). A tax of around 17 percent would have been applied to all recreational sales. It would have set up a state-run dispensary system.
SB 408, Drug Possession as a Misdemeanor, would have reduced the penalty of possession to a misdemeanor charge while retaining the threat of imprisonment.
HB 63, Study Industrial Hemp Production and Sales, would have allocated $100,000 to the state's agriculture department for the study of hemp production and sales.
HB 566, Hemp Research, would have authorized and regulated research into hemp production with the goal of developing “plant varieties with increased productivity or that are adapted to the state's diverse ecosystem.”
SB 477, Medical Cannabis and Removal of Children, would have barred parents' enrollment in the medical program from being grounds for interference by the state's family social services.