Legalization Working Group issues recommendations for 2020 session
Last update: December 30, 2019
In June 2019, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) appointed a working group of lawmakers and experts to develop a plan to legalize marijuana in 2020. The group completed its work and issued recommendations in October 2019. With support from the governor and the working group recommendations, New Mexico is positioned to potentially legalize cannabis in 2020. The 2020 legislative session will begin on January 21 and last just 30 days.
During the 2019 legislative session, a bill to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adults died in the Senate Finance Committee after passing the House. Please reach out to your lawmakers and ask them to legalize marijuana in 2020!
New Mexico governor signs marijuana decriminalization bill
On April 3, 2019, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed SB 323, which decriminalizes up to a half ounce of marijuana. In doing so, New Mexico became the 24th state to decriminalize marijuana possession. (It was soon followed by Hawaii and North Dakota, bringing the total to 26). The penalty for possessing up to half an ounce of marijuana is a $50 civil fine, instead of potential jail time.
Unfortunately, decriminalization does nothing to control the illicit market. Adults should have access to safe, regulated places to purchase marijuana. A poll commissioned by the governor-appointed marijuana working group found that three out of four voters in the state support legalizing cannabis for adult-use.
New Mexico is one of 33 states (plus D.C.) that have removed criminal penalties for the medical use of marijuana. In June 2019, the New Mexico Department of Health added six new qualifying conditions (opioid use disorder, autism spectrum disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, Friedreich’s Ataxia, Lewy Body Disease, and spinal muscular atrophy) to the state’s medical cannabis program, raising the total number of qualifying conditions to 28.
The legislature and governor also enacted SB 406 during the 2019 session to expand the state’s medical cannabis program. SB 406 includes reciprocity for visiting patients, allows home growers to pay manufacturers to process their cannabis, allows patients to renew their medical cannabis cards every three years rather than annually, and includes employment protections for medical cannabis patients.
In another positive development, in a 2018 court ruling, a judge overturned the 450-plant cap imposed on licensed nonprofit producers, finding it was arbitrary. Many patients had suffered from a lack of supply and high prices due to the cap. On March 1 2019, the Department of Health temporarily increased the plant count to 2,500 plants.
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.
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