A bill aiming to legalize and regulate marijuana in New Mexico had a lot of momentum but doesn’t appear to be on its way to becoming law this session.
While the 2019 session ended at noon on Saturday, New Mexico House Bill 356, or the “Cannabis Regulation Act,” is expected to die in the Senate, stuck in committee.
While that bill passed a full House vote and had broad support from Democrats in the Senate, the Senate Finance Committee has yet to schedule the bill for a committee discussion or vote.
“It’s basically boiling down to whether or not the Senate Finance Committee and Senator (John Arthur) Smith wants to give it a hearing,” said Democrat House Speaker Brian Egolf during an interview with reporters this week.
“I think if he does, it will pass,” Egolf said. “I think the votes are there on the floor to pass it in the Senate.”
However, the longtime chair of that committee, Democrat Senator John Arthur Smith, doesn’t agree. The senator told reporters earlier this week that he doesn’t believe the bill “has the votes” to make it out of the committee.
That committee has seven Democrats and five Republicans on it, however, it’s unclear which lawmakers may have reservations about the bill.
With little time left in the session, even though Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says she supports marijuana’s legalization and regulation, the governor seemed to indicate this week that it’s not among her top priorities.
“I don’t really have an opinion about whether Senate Finance should or shouldn’t (vote on the bill),” said Gov. Lujan Grisham.
“In three days, they have to make some pretty critical decisions,” the governor said. “I want the budget and capital, to all of our other priorities to get upstairs!”
House Speaker Brian Egolf told reporters this week that marijuana legalization is one of the topics state lawmakers would almost surely bring back in the next session if the bill does not get passed by Saturday’s closure.
The governor says she wants to see a legal pot bill that includes safeguards to keep kids from using the drug, and also tough language blocking use while driving and in the workplace.