January 5, 2016

Recreational marijuana bill filed for the second year

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As prefiled bills roll in to the Roundhouse, New Mexicans can expect to see some of the usual suspects. The legalization of recreational marijuana has become one of those perennial bills. This year, Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, has filed a legalization bill similar to one he filed last year.

Marijuana bud

McCamley told NM Political Report the issue absolutely is a budget issue and and should be considered during the short session.

“For this not be considered would be grossly inappropriate,” McCamley said in a phone interview on Monday.

Budget issues and those considered germane to messages sent by Gov. Susana Martinez are the only bills that can be considered in this year’s 30-day session (joint resolutions for proposed constitutional amendments and memorials can also be heard).

McCamley added that the discussion of medical marijuana has become more political and less about common sense.

This has basically been a partisan issue,” McCamley said. “That’s really troublesome.”

HB 75, or the Cannabis Revenue & Freedom Act aims to allow the legal sale and distribution of recreational marijuana within New Mexico. McCamley introduced a similar bill last year, but it died early on in the legislative session. Last year, McCamley asked committee members to take the bill seriously, something he also told NM Political Report last year.

“It’s important that when we discuss this issue, we do so in a manner that is based on what the facts are, what the statistics tell us, rather than this ‘Reefer Madness’ orCheech and Chong mindset about marijuana,” McCamley said leading into the 2015 legislative session.

Last year McCamley admitted that legalization would be an uphill battle with the state’s current administration.

“I’m hoping that by the time we have a governor who’s willing to look at this issue thoughtfully, and consider it seriously, then maybe we’ll have crafted a piece of legislation that can make it through the House and Senate and we can all do this together,” McCamley said at the time, referring to Martinez’s public opposition to legalizing marijuana.

McCamley’s argument for why the state should legalize recreational marijuana hasn’t changed much in the last year either. McCamley said on Monday that there are “all sorts of money going to the drug dealers across the border.”

McCamley said he would like to see that money go to New Mexico business owners and taxpayers instead.

Based on Martinez’ stance on marijuana, there is little chance she will deem a bill like this as germaine. Even so, the House Republican majority made it known last year, there was little to no room for recreational marijuana in New Mexico. Now it seems there may be slight pushback from at least one medical marijuana insider.

Willie Ford, executive director of Reynold Greenleaf & Associates, a New Mexico Medical Marijuana company, said he spoke with McCamley about this year’s attempt, but didn’t seem to get his point across.

Ford said he was “disappointed with” McCamley’s “commitment” to bridging the medical marijuana industry to the potential recreational producers. Ford told NM Political Report that he asked McCamley to add a provision to his bill that would allow the recreational sales to help pay for the production of medical marijuana.

“If we do have an adult rec[reational] program it should subsidize the medical program,” Ford said.

McCamley countered that while his bill would not subsidize medical marijuana, it would not tax medical marijuana use either.

Ford said that at the end of the day he is an advocate for medical marijuana, but could fully support a recreational bill as long as it doesn’t increase prices for marijuana patients.

“We’d like to support this, but haven’t see the right verbiage yet,” Ford said.

While the bill will most likely never see a moment in the committee process this year, Ford said he’ll be keeping an eye on it and plans to speak up about his concerns if it does.