SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – State lawmakers were back in Santa Fe Tuesday for a special session focusing on legalizing recreational marijuana. The bill cleared its first two committees and it now heads to the House floor for a vote.
The bill was under debate before the House Judiciary Committee for nearly five hours and now heads to the full chamber for considerations. The bill is not light reading, it’s a 178-page bill but it’s gone through some changes since it was heard in the regular session that wrapped up ten days ago.
“We’ve all seen the data with regard to how New Mexicans feel about this issue. Overall 74 percent of New Mexicans support a proposal to legalize and tax cannabis, to adults 21 and older,” said Rep. Javier Martinez (D- Albuquerque).
The main proposal of the bill are still in place, like only allowing people 21 years and older, be able to buy and use marijuana, and for those legal consumers, they can hold no more than two ounces of cannabis, 16 grams of cannabis extract or 800 milligrams of edible cannabis on them. The bill would also let part of the sales tax go towards state and local governments. Already in the first few hours of the session, lawmakers amended the bill in the House Tax and Revenue Committee to increase the excise tax over time from 12 to 18%.
Although the session is focused mainly on marijuana, it’s met with fierce opposition. One person spoke out in public comment saying they worry that people using it for non-medicinal purposes will be negatively impacted by it. “To continue to open it up to everyone, I’m in very strict opposition to that, I don’t feel that’s the way to go,” said Juan Chavez, who is opposed to the bill.
The bill now takes out a so-called ‘social justice component’ which would’ve allowed the expungement of arrests and convictions for marijuana possession, is now a separate bill which was introduced in the Senate.
The speaker of the House said they could vote on this bill on the floor as early as Wednesday. Republican Senator Cliff Pirtle also introduced a marijuana bill but it’s unlikely it will be heard. Lawmakers are also discussing a bill that would expand LEDA funding to increase job expansion.