New Mexico has not moved any closer to fully legalizing recreational cannabis, as a Senate panel has decided to pull discussions at the last minute.

Initially, a hearing was scheduled for this past Sunday, but the topic has now been pulled and won’t be discussed at this time. This is probably due to the fact that the Senate is finding it hard to agree on issues like taxation, pardoning and expungement, and licensing—the issues that often hold cannabis industries up initially. 

This is stressful for advocates, as New Mexico’s Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham wants to go ahead and get legalization under way, and only gave state senators this week to approve legislation. Then, the session will end, and cannabis legalization needs to be decided and worked out before then. 

The Status of Cannabis in New Mexico

This discussion and debate started when two proposals were introduced to legalize cannabis, one from a Republican and another from a Democrat. Those deciding on legal cannabis are also looking at how the medical industry already does things, as well as how to balance economic opportunity with best practices for equity. 

So far, the cannabis proposal that has been advanced by the Senate is one that promises independent regulatory oversight via a Cannabis Control Board. The plan was proposed by Senator Cliff Pirtle. As a Republican, he is proposing minimal license fees and taxes on cannabis sales. He also doesn’t want to put a limit on grow licenses or business licenses. The free market would thus be able to thrive, the idea being that healthy competition would win out and cannabis would be affordable and accessible.

Governor Grisham has also stepped in to help move legal cannabis along, offering to facilitate a deal between medical cannabis producers who want first dibs at the legal market, and those concerned about too much supply if cannabis becomes legal. 

Additionally, in the House, Linda Trujillo has been appointed by the governor to oversee a provision that would help deal with what is being called “market equilibrium,” or how to make sure the new cannabis industry is balanced.

“We are putting in here the possibility that the department could, in fact, limit the plant count, but it would require the department to do an analysis,” Trujillo said. 

Attached to a bill from Representative Javier Martínez, the House’s legislative plan is more focused on helping those disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs prior to legalization. It includes plans to automatically expunge cannabis charges and convictions, and releasing cannabis prisoners. 

Now, it remains to be seen what the Senate judiciary committee will do with these bills, and when they will now find time to discuss the new legislation before their deadline is up.

Many issues have already been up for debate in New Mexico in regards to legal cannabis. While it is clear that the recreational market will in some ways be similar to the medical market, there is still discussion on extension of cultivation limits for cannabis growers, in order to avoid inflated retail prices. 

Until the Senate finally reaches a decision, a recreational industry in New Mexico won’t be fully established.

Addison Herron-Wheeler


Addison Herron-Wheeler is co-publisher and owner of OUT FRONT Magazine, and web editor of New Noise Magazine. She covers cannabis and heavy metal, and is author of Wicked Woman: Women in Metal from the 1960s to Now and Respirator, a collection of short stories.

New Mexico State Legislators Stall on Legal Cannabis

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