Will New Mexico Be the Next State to Legalize It?

By Victoria Kim 02/02/18

If so, the state would be the second to legalize cannabis for adult use through the state legislature rather than a voter referendum.

cannabis leaves

New Mexico may be next in line to legalize cannabis for adult use. The Drug Policy Alliance reported that on Wednesday, Jan 31, a state representative introduced House Bill 312 to tax and regulate cannabis in New Mexico.

“The war on marijuana has been a miserable failure,” said Rep. Javier Martinez, who introduced the measure. “We spend millions of dollars criminalizing people who use marijuana without seeing benefits to public health or safety. We need to legalize marijuana in New Mexico and stop the harm that disproportionately impacts those who are living in poverty and those who are Black, Native and Hispanic/Latino.”

Under current state policy, possession of under one ounce of cannabis is treated as a misdemeanor punishable by up to 15 days in jail and a maximum fine of $100 for a first-time offender, according to NORML. For additional offenses, the penalties increase to up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.

Rep. Martinez argues that current penalties for cannabis offenses are more damaging to New Mexicans than they are helpful. “A marijuana conviction can have tragic long-term consequences for individuals and families,” he said. “People may lose jobs or be unable to secure employment because of a criminal record. Students who incur a marijuana conviction can lose their student loans. The punishment doesn’t fit the offense and New Mexicans agree we should remove penalties and instead tax and regulate marijuana.” 

Proponents of the measure acknowledge that they don’t expect HB 312 to pass in 2018, but look forward to the conversation that it will generate in the state legislature.

A second measure was introduced in the state senate for the same purpose. SJR 4 was pre-filed by state Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino to amend the state constitution to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis for adult use. As of January 17, the measure was referred to the Senate Rules Committee, according to NORML.

If either of these measures make it to the governor’s desk, New Mexico would become the 10th state to legalize cannabis for adult use, and the second to legalize cannabis through the state legislature rather than voter referendum.

New Mexico would follow in the footsteps of Vermont, which became the first to legalize cannabis through the state legislature in January, and the 9th to legalize overall.

Twenty-nine states have approved the medical use of cannabis, including New Mexico. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the majority of New Mexicans (60%) are in favor of reforming current marijuana laws.

Several other state governments are also considering legalization initiatives, including Missouri, New Hampshire and New York, according to Tom Angell, a long-time drug policy reform activist and creator of Marijuana Moment. Angell reported last December, “In 2017, Marijuana Moment tracked 59 separate marijuana legalization bills in state legislative chambers.” 

Meanwhile, a handful of other states may take the voter referendum route, allowing voters to decide whether to legalize it.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr