Why NM Legislators Should Vote for HB 160–SB 115
Summary: Sponsored by Senator Ortiz y Pino and Reps. Javier Martinez and Moe Maestas, this bill would legalize recreational marijuana for people 21 or older in New Mexico, and the state could tax marijuana sold in licensed stores, mostly small businesses. The bill sets a 9% excise tax, and allows a municipal cannabis tax and a county cannabis tax of up to 4% each, plus GRT on non-medical cannabis purchases. It would automatically seal certain cannabis-related criminal records and allow for the possible recall or dismissal of the sentence for a person currently incarcerated for cannabis offenses that would no longer be violations under the new law. The Act creates a tightly regulated system of approved licensees with strict rules and regulations, similar to those governing the production and sale of tobacco or alcohol.
History: The bill has been introduced every year since 2015 in some form. In 2016, a constitutional amendment passed two Senate committees but was defeated on the Senate floor by a 24-17 margin. In 2019, the Cannabis Regulation Act passed the House 36:34, passed Senate Public Affairs, and died in Senate Finance without a hearing.
Why This Bill Is Good for NM
- Seventy percent of New Mexicans support the legalization of marijuana.
- In just the first year, it is expected to create 11,000 new jobs and increase the General Fund by about $58 million; an additional $7.6 million would go to the Community Reinvestment Grants Fund, $2.2 million to the Health and Safety Fund, $2.2 million to the Local DWI Grant Fund, and $760K to the Cannabis Research Fund.
- The Act will end policies that scar low-level marijuana users with a serious criminal history that can prevent them from obtaining scholarships, future job placement, and a prosperous future.
- It will end marijuana arrests and citations, freeing up law enforcement for more serious offenses.
- It protects the state’s Medical Cannabis Program by requiring licensees to hold 33% of their product for medical patients and creating a subsidy program to support low-income patients.
- New Mexico has had a chance to learn from the pitfalls other states have encountered when they’ve legalized cannabis, and precautions are written into the bill: ban public use but make provisions for tourists to have a place to use; require warning labels, childproof packaging, and limit advertising; include provisions that are designed to limit supply so that we do not have surpluses; make sure the medical marijuana program not adversely affected.
- Opponents fear legalized marijuana would lead to a spike in crime. But marijuana is already one of the lowest priorities in the criminal justice system. Bernalillo County’s top law enforcement officer, 2nd Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez, doesn’t view marijuana as substantially affecting public safety now. “It is just not something we see a lot of here,” Torrez said. “In my experience, since being in this office, marijuana is not a driver of serious crimes. Methamphetamine, heroin, and opioids are much more of a contributing factor.”
Supporting Organizations: Drug Policy Alliance; ACLU New Mexico; El Centro de Igualdad & Derechos; My Destiny; NM Criminal Defense Lawyers Association; NM Public Health Association