While legalizing cannabis for adults was not one of the initiatives that went the distance before the 60-day session closed, a huge amount of progress was made on the issue, combining the best pieces from the initial few bills, and then continuing to improve the chosen bill through committee discussion and thoughtful amendments in both the House and the Senate.
It’s a smart move to make space for focused time in a special session to get the job done. A fully matured legal cannabis market in New Mexico will create 11,000 new jobs and generate more than $50 million a year in recurring revenue. Arizona has already started adult-use sales, Colorado has had a legal market for nearly a decade, Mexico is very close to legalizing cannabis, and the Texas state House has indicated cannabis reform, including legislation to legalize, is on its way. With more than 75% of New Mexicans supporting legalizing cannabis for adults, we agree it’s the right thing to do, and we agree that the time is now. It’s worth the extra effort to get us across the finish line. We simply cannot afford to wait for a future session.
Here are the key priorities that rose to the surface during this session:
Reasonable tax rate – in order to undercut the illicit market and be cost-competitive with neighboring states, the total tax rate should be right around 20%.
⋄ Production management – the state must have a mechanism, especially in the first few years of an adult-use market, to manage cannabis production. We must maintain sufficient supply while also ensuring we don’t have oversupply, which would make it difficult for small and medium-sized producers to be successful in the industry. Also, with no ability to cross state lines, any oversupply would likely dump into the illicit market.
⋄ Pathways to entry — Microlicenses that will create accessible entry points must be fully supported. License fees should be affordable; there should be loan and grant programs as well as mentorship programs to ensure New Mexicans who want to participate in the industry are able to do so.
⋄ Water and natural resources – Cannabis is not nearly as water-intensive as other crops grown in New Mexico, and we need to make sure we’re looking ahead to prudent water and resource management.
⋄ Equity and social justice – We cannot continue to punish people for a crime that is no longer a crime. Expunging records for cannabis offenses and ensuring those harmed by the discriminatory war on drugs have equitable access to this new industry are paramount, so important that they deserve dedicated legislation in the forthcoming special session.
⋄ Protecting the Medical Cannabis Program – Cannabis is medicine, first and foremost. While it would be normal to see enrollment in the program fluctuate with a shift to legal adult use, we must continue to improve and enhance the Medical Cannabis Program and ensure supply to patient medicine is never at risk.
New Mexico deserves to not be left behind as our country moves to legalize cannabis. With federal descheduling moving in Congress, and federal legalization very likely with a future Democratic administration, this is the last opportunity for New Mexico to chart its path for how we handle adult use cannabis. It’s going to happen, it’s going to happen soon, and it’s going to be done right.