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New Mexico Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Legalization, Governor Will Sign Bill [FEATURE]

New Mexico has become the second state in as many days to see lawmakers approve marijuana legalization. New York did it on March 30, and with the approval of House Bill 2, the Cannabis Regulation Act, and Senate Bill 2, the Expungement of Certain Criminal Records Act, by legislators in Santa Fe, New Mexico got it done on March 31.

The Land of Enchantment is about to get a bit more enchanting.
In both states, Democratic governors have said they will approve the bills. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said after the Albany vote he looked forward to signing the legislation, and New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, who called a special session precisely to get legalization passed, made her intentions clear earlier in March, saying "We're going to get cannabis because I am not going to wait another year."

She was even more clear after the bills finally passed: "This is a significant victory for New Mexico," she said in a post-vote statement. "Workers will benefit from the opportunity to build careers in this new economy. Entrepreneurs will benefit from the opportunity to create lucrative new enterprises. The state and local governments will benefit from the additional revenue. Consumers will benefit from the standardization and regulation that comes with a bona fide industry. And those who have been harmed by this country's failed war on drugs, disproportionately communities of color, will benefit from our state's smart, fair and equitable new approach to past low-level convictions."

Once Lujan Grisham signs the bills, New Mexico will become the 17th state to legalize marijuana and the fourth to do it via the legislative process, after Vermont, Illinois, and New York. Virginia is about to join this group -- the legislature has already passed a legalization bill, but Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has proposed an amendment to speed up the implementation of legalization from 2024 to this coming July. The General Assembly will take up the amendment in a one-day session to consider vetoes and amendments on April 7, and is expected to approve it.

"This year is proving to be nothing short of monumental for the cannabis policy reform movement. State legislatures across the nation are recognizing the urgent need to end cannabis prohibition and are rising to the challenge," Steve Hawkins, executive director at the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement greeting the vote.

In New Mexico, House Bill 2 allows people 21 and over to possess up to two ounces of marijuana grow up to six mature plants at home. It also sets up a plan for taxed and regulated sales to begin next year, with a maximum 20% tax. And the bill includes measures aimed at easing entry into the industry for those disproportionately impacted by pot prohibition. While the bill was stripped of some provisions that would have helped ameliorate the impact of the drug war on the most effected communities, it does provide and entrée to the industry via low-cost licenses for small producers, and it will allow some people with drug convictions to get in on the legal industry.

Senate Bill 2 provides for the automatic expungement of past marijuana possession convictions. It also provides for a review of the sentences of about one hundred state prisoners currently doing time for pot crimes.

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) has had a New Mexico office since 2000 and has been plugging away on a wide range of drug reform issues, including marijuana legalization ever since. It lauded the victory.

"New Mexicans are finally able to exhale. After many years of hard work, another whirlwind legislative session, and input from stakeholders throughout the state, social justice-centered cannabis legalization is on its way to the governor's desk, where she has already agreed to sign," DPA Senior Director for Resident States and New Mexico Emily Kaltenbach said in a statement after the votes.

The Land of Enchantment is about to get a bit more enchanting.

The Drug Policy Alliance is a funder of StoptheDrugWar.org.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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