New Mexico Legislature convenes, legalization bills introduced
Last update: January 22, 2016
The New Mexico Legislature’s 2016 session convened on January 19, with three proposals already pending to allow adults to use marijuana and to purchase it from regulated stores.
Four other states — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington — have taken similar approaches, but each of those states have a process for statewide citizens’ initiatives, unlike New Mexico. In the Land of Enchantment, voters have to rely on their lawmakers to set policy or to refer questions to voters. Luckily, at least two lawmakers are leading the way.
Rep. Bill McCamley sponsors the Cannabis Revenue & Freedom Act — HB 75 — which would create a statute regulating and taxing marijuana for adults who are 21 and older. Meanwhile, Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino has proposed SJR 5, which would ask voters whether they want to amend the constitution to allow adults to possess and use marijuana and to require the legislature to regulate and tax marijuana and hemp.
Marijuana laws in New Mexico
New Mexico is one of 23 states (plus D.C.) that have removed criminal penalties for the medical use of marijuana. As of fall 2015, there were about 18,000 registered patients served by 23 non-profit producers. The health department is in the process of licensing 12 more producers, which would bring the total to 35. For information on New Mexico’s medical marijuana program, including information on qualifying conditions and how to become a patient, please visit the New Mexico Health Department’s information page.
While New Mexico’s marijuana laws are less draconian than those of most states, the state still criminalizes its residents for using a substance that is safer than alcohol. Possession of one ounce or less of marijuana for non-medical purposes is punishable by a $50-100 fine and up to 15 days in jail. A second offense, or a conviction for possession of more than an ounce, can lead to a fine of up to $1,000 and a prison term of up to one year.
In 2015, the Senate approved a bill to replace criminal penalties for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana with a $50 civil fine, but the House failed to take a vote on the measure. Some localities are taking action on their own: In November 2014, voters in Santa Fe and Bernalillo Counties — representing 40% of the state’s population — approved advisory questions asking their elected officials to support decriminalization. The questions won with 73% support in Santa Fe County and 59% in Bernalillo County.
- Ask your state legislators to support imposing a modest civil fine, not jail time, on simple possession of marijuana.
- Urge your legislators to replace marijuana prohibition with sensible regulations.
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