Baked Goods: Cannabis Legalization Not A Sure Thing

Republicans Could Spoil The Whole Thing

Joshua Lee
5 min read
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A new bill to legalize recreational cannabis in New Mexico was officially filed last week, just after Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham included the issue in her 2020 legislative agenda. This is the big one, kids—the one we’ve all been waiting for. Unlike the many previous attempts, this legalization bill has legs, and it means to walk across the finish line.

Under identical bills
House Bill 160 and Senate Bill 115, both titled “Cannabis Regulation Act,” private citizens over 21 will be able to possess and purchase cannabis from licensed retailers. If it passes, growing cannabis at home will not be permitted, but it will be decriminalized—possessing up to three plants and six seedlings will be punishable by a $50 fine.

The bills also include provisions made to appease the medical community. One would end the gross sales tax on medical cannabis. Another would establish the “medical cannabis subsidy program,” that would provide medical cannabis products or subsidies to qualified low-income patients.

The state’s Department of Health would be expected to monitor statistical information regarding abuse statistics, child use, road safety, work safety, hospitalizations and other points of public health interest as it becomes available. The Secretary of Health will also be required to appoint a “public health and safety advisory committee” composed of “professionals with expertise related to cannabis through work, training or research in public health,epidemiology, medicine, medical toxicology, poison control,road safety, occupational safety, environmental safety and emergency medicine.”

An excise tax of nine percent would be placed on all recreational sales, if the bills are passed. Cities and municipalities will also be given the option of adding their own local taxes (not to exceed four percent) on top of that.

The bills address equity, guaranteeing that all prior marijuana possession convictions are expunged and providing for “microbusiness” licenses (for producers with less than 99 plants at a time) to encourage participation from smaller businesses.

The bills also cover areas such as advertising, labeling, public consumption, public safety and cannabis production education licensing.

The governor is making legalization a priority this legislative session. According to a
press release, Lujan Grisham officially announced her support for HB 160, which she said was based on a report by her Cannabis Legalization Working Group.

“The Legislature has the opportunity to pass the largest job-creation program in New Mexico in a decade,” Lujan Grisham said. “Skeptics have been right to preach study and patience. I agree with their caution—and that’s why we haven’t rushed into this issue. But if we are clear-eyed about the risks, we have to be clear-eyed about the opportunity.”

But according to the
Albuquerque Journal, the bills face trouble that could keep them from becoming law. In particular, it’s unclear if it has support from Senate Republicans. Last year, a similar bill stalled in the Senate after narrowly passing in the House.

It should also be noted that the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce—an influential business group that has heavy insider pull—opposed legalization last year. It’s yet to be seen which side it will take this time around.

So while we’re looking at the best possible chance this state has ever had to legalize cannabis, we might not want to get our hopes up.

Of course,
three-quarters of New Mexicans do support legalization, and if we get screwed again, we might start seeing our current leaders being kicked to the curb come voting time.

Las Cruces Mayor Opposes Legalization

And right on cue, the peanut gallery pipes in.

Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima told
Las Cruces Sun reporters that legalizing cannabis would be the “most irresponsible” move he’s ever seen in his time in government. During a Las Cruces City Council work session last week, he voiced his opposition after Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis gave a presentation on proposed legalization policies.

“I’m not supportive of this,” Miyagishima said to those gathered. “It took me a long time to support CBD. And I finally relented on the medical marijuana.”

The rest of the council reportedly showed support for cannabis legalization legislation, however.

This brings us back to an earlier point about leaders whose convictions don’t line up with those of their constituents. Get with the times or fall behind, Miyagishima!

DOH Takes Comments

Last week, the New Mexico Department of Health held a public hearing covering some proposed changes to the state’s Medical Cannabis Program.

According to
NM Political Report, most of the public comments dealt with testing standards. Some patients were concerned that these standards are too stringent and could lead to higher-priced products. Producers at the meeting reportedly confirmed that the new standards would make testing more expensive.

Some also criticized public consumption rules. Under the new law, public consumption areas are allowed, but they must be owned and operated by a licensed producer, and users have to have a safe ride home. Some argued that the opportunity to operate a cannabis consumption area shouldn’t be limited to producers. Questions about liability were raised in the hypothetical case of a person who decides to drive themselves home after consuming cannabis at one of these places.

Medical Cannabis Program Director Dominick Zurlo said he expects the DOH will finalize this rule in February.
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