Task force to legalize recreational marijuana holds first public meeting

New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The state held its first public meeting on legalizing marijuana on Wednesday. The big concern: who would run it and who should make money off it.

Lawmakers tossed around the idea of state-run marijuana stores and how they could co-exist with the medical marijuana program.

“Number one, we would eliminate sales tax on any medical cannabis product,” said State Rep. Javier Martinez (D-Albuquerque). “Number two, we’re creating subsidies for low-income medical patients…and an idea that came out during this hearing today is potentially not having any fees for folks seeking a medical card.”

It was only a discussion item, but the governor’s task force looked at strengthening the medical marijuana industry with incentives for people to keep using the program. Concerns were also raised about people growing their own pot if marijuana is legal. The task force echoed those concerns.

Another hot topic: the idea of state-run marijuana stores, which prompted some debate.

“I believe that privately run would make it a stronger system, a stronger program,” said Marguerite Salazar, Superintendent of New Mexico’s Regulation and Licensing. “Because it really encourages entrepreneurship, it really encourages new businesses, new jobs, that sort of thing.”

Backers of a state-run program claimed it would have better control over consumption and would help keep underage users from buying. It’s something Republican lawmakers want to see if this legislation is passed, but is getting pushback from Democrats.

The group will eventually send their recommendations to the Roundhouse. Lawmakers will take it up in January.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has made it known she wants marijuana legalized at next year’s session. Eleven states have now legalized marijuana

The governor’s working group is scheduled to hold another meeting on August 28 as well as visit with officials from Colorado. The group encourages the public to submit online comments through their website.

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