New Mexico legislative session starts, marijuana could be on the agenda

 

Last update: January 18, 2017

 

On January 17, the New Mexico Legislature’s 2017 session began, creating another chance to consider legalizing marijuana for adult use. While no bill has been filed yet, lawmakers can introduce legislation until February 16. Urge your lawmaker to support legalization of marijuana for adults!

Last year, three bills were introduced — HB 75, SJR 5, and SJR 6 — that would have legalized adult use of marijuana through a taxed and regulated system. SJR 5, which would have allowed the voters to decide whether to legalize marijuana, was passed by the Senate Rules Committee, but failed on the Senate floor by a vote of 17-24, preventing voters from considering it on the ballot on Election Day.

Currently, eight states — including Colorado, California, and Nevada — have legalized adult use of marijuana. Recent polls have found that two-thirds of New Mexicans support taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol. Marijuana prohibition is a failed policy that costs a tremendous amount in law enforcement resources, all while depriving New Mexico of tens of millions in annual tax revenue.

Let your elected officials know you care about ending marijuana prohibition and that you want New Mexico to be one of the first states in the nation to end cannabis prohibition through legislative reform.


Medical marijuana

 
New Mexico is one of 28 states (plus D.C.) that have removed criminal penalties for the medical use of marijuana. As of June 2016, there were over 26,568 registered patients served by 35 licensed nonprofit producers. There are also 5,865 active personal production licenses.

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.


Decriminalization

 
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 nonmedical 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.


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If you are a doctor, veteran, law enforcement official, a person who was arrested for marijuana possession, or an attorney, please email [email protected] to learn how you can be of special help.