Governor includes legalization in list of 2021 session priorities
Last update: January 19, 2021
The legislature began its 2021 legislative session on January 19, with top lawmakers signaling that 2021 could be the year New Mexico moves forward with cannabis legalization.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a vocal advocate for cannabis reform, has again included legalization in her list of priorities for the 2021 session. Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth has also said marijuana legalization is near the top of the agenda this session, and House Speaker Brian Egolf expects the House to approve a legalization bill. Rep. Javier Martinez has said he plans to introduce a bill.
Bills have stalled in the Senate in previous sessions, but several influential legislative opponents of legalization were defeated in the 2020 primary election, improving the odds a revised bill might make it to the Senate floor.
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. 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 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.