New Mexico Senate Committee Passes Bill to Legalize Marijuana
New Mexico’s Senate Public Affairs Committee has voted 4 to 3 (along party lines, with Democrats voting in favor) to legalize marijuana, to subsidize medical marijuana and to automatically expunge many past marijuana convictions.
Filed by Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino, the measure would override local governments that don’t want marijuana stores.
“This is the future,” Ben Lewinger, executive director of the New Mexico Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, told lawmakers. “New Mexico doesn’t have time to waste precious years.”
But, as noted by the AP, the future of the bill remain uncertain as it moves to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where chairman Sen. Joseph Cervantes, a moderate Democrat from Las Cruces, has said he had concerns about legalizing recreational marijuana in the state.
Under the proposal, every marijuana store would be required to offer medical marijuana to patients who qualify under a long list of conditions such as cancer, post-traumatic stress and chronic pain.
The initiative was condemned as a threat to workplace and roadway safety by a coalition that includes the local Roman Catholic Church, Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and Smart Approaches to Marijuana — a nonpartisan group opposed to marijuana legalization.
Authors of the legislation say it responds to concerns about affordability and access to medical marijuana in states including Oregon that have authorized recreational marijuana. No state yet mandates medical cannabis sales at all marijuana shops, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
A bipartisan legalization bill last year that involved state-run cannabis stores won House approval by a two-vote margin before stalling in the Senate, where several moderate Democrats have openly opposed legalization, notes the AP.
This year’s initiative took some of its inspiration from recommendations made by a legalization policy task force assembled by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and led by Albuquerque city councilor Pat Davis. The bill would reserve tax revenue from marijuana sales for law enforcement agencies and public education efforts to prevent intoxicated driving.