SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Recreational cannabis is one step closer to being legalized in the state, all it needs now is the governor’s signature. The New Mexico Senate voted to legalize recreational marijuana Wednesday night. For years, legislation to legalize recreational marijuana has died or stalled in the Senate, so Wednesday night’s vote was historic.
“I’m just very excited for the people in the state of New Mexico,” said Rep. Javier Martinez (D- Albuquerque). “I think the people deserve a big transformative win like this one. I can’t wait for this industry to get to work and create jobs and bring revenues for our state.”
The bill would allow people 21 years or older to buy and use marijuana but they can only buy no more than two ounces of cannabis. There are also limits on extracts and edibles. Backers think it could generate more than $300 million in revenue for the state.
Wednesday night began with the Senate debating two different cannabis bills, one backed by Democrats and another sponsored by a Senate Republican. The Senate voted down the Republican cannabis proposal sponsored by Sen. Cliff Pirtle. One of the differences between Sen. Pirtle’s bill is that the bill would have allowed for more of a free-market approach and his bill, part of the excise tax money would go towards drugged driving detection but that proposal fell short.
Senator Pirtle expressed his disappointment saying he felt the other side of the aisle would not work with him or other Republicans on a more bipartisan bill and he did not hold back before the Senate made their final vote. “So if you wanna [sic] preach then get on your soapbox and talk about how, well why can’t Republicans vote for this, well I’m not included, our ideas are rejected, any amendment is rejected just because of the sponsor,” said Sen. Pirtle (R- Roswell).
Some lawmakers questioned if New Mexico is ready to legalize recreational marijuana, saying they had concerns about kids getting access to marijuana and drugged driving. But after less than two days of a special session, lawmakers were finally able to clear one of the governor’s top priorities.
The governor is expected to sign the bill. If she does, it would go into effect in April 2022. The governor sent out the following response after the bill passed:
“This is a significant victory for New Mexico. Workers will benefit from the opportunity to build careers in this new economy. Entrepreneurs will benefit from the opportunity to create lucrative new enterprises. The state and local governments will benefit from the additional revenue. Consumers will benefit from the standardization and regulation that comes with a bona fide industry. And those who have been harmed by this country’s failed war on drugs, disproportionately communities of color, will benefit from our state’s smart, fair and equitable new approach to past low-level convictions.
There were more than a few significant breakthroughs in the 60-day session. This is yet another one. As New Mexicans know, I have advocated and pushed and negotiated for this measure, and I am immensely proud and humbled to have seen it through. But that feeling is dwarfed by the gratitude I feel for the well-informed advocates, to the community members from all across the state – urban and rural, from every region– who have been committed to lobbying for this, to the leaders in the Legislature who helped us cross this major threshold.
Congratulations and thank you to Rep. Javier Martinez, Rep. Andrea Romero, Rep. Debbie Armstrong, Sen. Linda Lopez, Sen. Katy Duhigg and Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino for their efforts not only tonight, and during this special session, but for years. Without their advocacy and commitment, we would not be here.
This is a good bill. This special session was a success. And the work of making sure that this industry is a success, that New Mexicans are able to reap the full economic and social benefit of legalized adult-use cannabis, that workplace and roadway safety are assured to the greatest degree possible – that work will go on. Change never comes easily and rarely does it occur as quickly as we might like. But with this major step forward, we are signaling more clearly than ever before that we are ready, as a state, to truly break new ground, to think differently about ourselves and our economic future, to fearlessly invest in ourselves and in the limitless potential of New Mexicans.”Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D- New Mexico)