The Associated Press & Kai Porter
Updated: November 13, 2019 06:18 PM
Created: November 13, 2019 06:27 AM
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Legislators in New Mexico are sizing up the potential taxable market for recreational marijuana if the state moves forward with legalization proposals next year.
A panel of state lawmakers met Wednesday to hear testimony on the potential economic benefits of bringing recreational cannabis sales under state regulation and oversight.
Albuquerque city councilman Pat Davis is the chairman of the governor's Cannabis Legalization Working Group.
"Our charge from the governor was: create a road map that's not should we legalize but when New Mexico legalizes, because it's coming," Davis said.
Davis told the Economic and Rural Development Committee that legalizing recreational marijuana would lead to the creation of 11,000 jobs and bring $54 million in tax revenue to the state.
"From farmers to retailers to manufacturers to produce the supply—New Mexico's expected to need. And that's a big boon for communities all across New Mexico," Davis said.
Democrat State Rep. Antonio Maestas will co-sponsor the bill during the upcoming legislative session.
A previous version of the bill was passed in the House during the last legislative session, but failed in the Senate.
"Last session to me was the backlog of ideas. This session will be new ideas. I think it'll be a priority. We have to do everything we can to increase our economic growth here in New Mexico and get our economy going. This will be a key component to that," Rep. Maestas said.
The new bill will likely garner bi-partisan support.
Republican State Sen. Cliff Pirtle said he will vote for it as long as it addresses public safety concerns.
"Just because something's going to bring in a lot of tax dollars doesn't mean we should rush into something so we really need to make sure that we look at it closely, that we do protect children, we find a way that if hopefully eliminates as much of the black market as possible— those are the things that we really need to look at," Sen. Pirtle said.
Troy Lapsys of medical cannabis manufacturer PhytoRemedies in Albuquerque estimates statewide illicit marijuana sales at about $450 million annually.
That is more than four times the size of New Mexico's current market for medical cannabis.
New Mexico's medical cannabis program was started in 2007 and serves more than 70,000 registered patients.
Medical cannabis supplier Ultra Health contends that the approval of high taxes and stiff restrictions on recreational marijuana suppliers could prolong the black market.
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