House of Representatives approves legalization bill
Last update: March 5, 2021
The legislature began its 2021 legislative session on January 19, with top lawmakers signaling that 2021 could be the year New Mexico legalizes cannabis.
On February 26, the House of Representatives approved (39-31) Rep. Javier Martinez’ bill to legalize cannabis for adult use, HB 12. Now, lawmakers in the Senate will work to unify three competing legalization bills.
In addition to legalizing personal possession of at least two ounces of cannabis, HB 12 would also allow home cultivation of six mature plants, provide for automatic expungement of prior cannabis convictions, and use tax revenue to reinvest in communities disproportionately impacted by prohibition.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a vocal advocate for cannabis reform, has included legalization in her list of priorities for the 2021 session. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth has also said marijuana legalization is near the top of the agenda this session.
Polling has shown that the majority of New Mexicans support legalizing, taxing, and regulating cannabis for adult use, and 15 states — including New Mexico’s neighbors Arizona and Colorado — have legalized cannabis for adults 21 and older.
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. 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.
New Mexico is one of 36 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’sinformation page.