Legislative session ends, marijuana could be on the agenda

 

Last update: May 15, 2017

 

Several marijuana policy reform bills were introduced during the 2017 legislative session, which ended on March 18, but unfortunately none of them became law.

Two bills, H.B. 89 and S.B. 278 would have legalized and regulated marijuana for adults’ use, while SJR 19 would have allowed voters to decide whether to amend the state constitution to allow legalization. The Legislature also considered S.B. 258, which would have reduced criminal penalties for possession. It passed the Senate in a 33-9 vote, but died in the House. Both chambers passed H.B. 527, which would have expanded and strengthened the existing medical cannabis program, but Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed the bill. Among other improvements, H.B. 527 would have protected visiting patients.

However, Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher has the power to make changes to the program by approving the medical cannabis board’s recommendations that she add qualifying conditions and eliminate a THC cap. Please urge Secretary Gallagher to improve New Mexico’s medical cannabis program.

You can also help build support for humane marijuana polices by letting 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. Currently, eight states — including Colorado, California, and Nevada — have legalized marijuana for adults. Recent polls have found that two-thirds of New Mexicans support taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol.


Medical marijuana

New Mexico is one of 29 states (plus D.C.) that have removed criminal penalties for the medical use of marijuana.As of February 2017, there were over 32,175 registered patients served by 53 licensed nonprofit producers. There are also 5,575 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.