Historic recreational marijuana bill includes big changes
March 08, 2019 10:20 PM
SANTA FE, N.M. — HB 356 made history late on Thursday night as the first recreational marijuana proposal to be approved in New Mexico. Big changes were made to the bill during the 3-hour debate on the House floor.
In the original bill, it was legal to carry two ounces of marijuana, but now it's down to one ounce.
Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, is one of the bill's sponsors and says that the compromise also included creating a state-level commission that will oversee recreational cannabis.
The original bill also allowed a homegrown license for people who want to grow their own cannabis, but the compromise bill no longer allows that.
The excise tax is now at 17 percent instead of 19 percent.
Some Republicans say they still have their concerns surrounding legal marijuana and DWI. The compromise bill does not have language to determine how high is too high to drive.
'This legislation did not contain authorization for law enforcement to do search warrants or obtain blood samples," said Rep. Bill Rehm, R-Albuquerque.
Some Republican supporters say it would give the state strong regulatory controls.
The new bill does not give much of a chance for those wanting to start a private recreational marijuana business. That big change came from the Republican Senate bill and it's modeled after Utah liquor laws.
"I think the state-run store is a better idea than having every mom and pop sell marijuana up and down the street," Rehm said.
"If you're in a community where there are more than 25 miles between state-sanctioned stores, there is potential for a private retail license," Martinez said. "All of those rules and frameworks will be developed by the independent commission we are setting up."
In the original bill, anyone could apply to get a license to privately sell recreational pot through the state licensing department. Now, the independent commission will handle those requests.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham would appoint those commissioners.
The bill is more than 130 pages but tucked into pages 47 through 51 is language stating that essentially any crime this bill legalizes has the opportunity to be expunged.
"Our bill would expunge possession of one ounce or less," Martinez said. "If we are going to legalize and make people wealthy, because let's face it, this is a multi-billion industry, then we want to make sure we take care of those who have been left behind."
Martinez says this would create $50 to $70 million in tax revenue and more than 10,000 jobs.
Recreational marijuana sales could begin as soon as 2021 if it is signed by Gov. Lujan Grisham.
The bill has been assigned to two committees in the Senate. The bill sponsor says it is set to be heard in its first Senate committee on Saturday.
Updated: March 08, 2019 10:20 PM
Created: March 08, 2019 08:53 PM
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