Bill to legalize recreational marijuana makes it out of first committee

[anvplayer video=”5006873″ station=”998127″]

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- One effort to legalize recreational marijuana in New Mexico cleared its first hurdle Monday.

House Bill 12 was passed by the Health and Human Services Committee by a 7-4 vote. The Cannabis Regulation Act, sponsored by Rep. Javier Martinez, sets a 20% tax rate ceiling.

“That’s important for two reason: number one — we want to make sure that we nurture this brand-new industry that we hope and expect will create thousands of jobs across the state — but number two, we also want to make sure that we undercut the illicit market,” said Rep. Martinez

Rival House Bill 17 was tabled after lawmakers spent hours debating both bills.

“We need to streamline and get one moving forward and I hope they’ll be able to take the best from both and then everyone be a co-sponsor,” said Rep. Elizabeth “Liz” Thomson.

Republican Rep. Luis Terrazas pointed to a recent study that showed traffic deaths increased in Colorado after legalizing marijuana.

“One of the articles I read was that traffic deaths were up 75 per year there,” Rep. Terrazas said in the committee hearing.

However, the study cited by Rep. Terrazas also showed that was not the case in Washington State after legalization – and that traffic deaths remained relatively stable.

“I think the data that came out of the [New Mexico] working group in 2019 was that the increase in DWI around cannabis use rose a little bit immediately after legalization and then was negligible,” said Ben Lewinger of the Cannabis Chamber of Commerce.

Lawmakers agreed to pass House Bill12 which now moves forward to its next committee – The House Taxation and Revenue Committee.

“I believe that passing this on to the next committee is a challenge but time is running out and I believe these process are the time that we can do this – this is what we’re supposed to do to produce the best product,” said Rep. Roger Montoya.

However, some lawmakers expressed concerns about the passage.

“A major concern with these bills is that they tie the hands of law enforcement.” said Rep. Luis Terrazas. “I am concerned that with so many other issues surrounding legalization, we may be setting this bill up to fail, and ultimately harm our state in the process. Even though I do not agree with this legislation, the legislation we heard today is premature and not ready to become law.”