March 16, 2021

Senate Judiciary Chair awaiting changes to cannabis legalization bill

The chairman of a New Mexico Senate committee that is key to getting a House-backed cannabis legalization effort to the Senate floor said he is still waiting on expected changes before scheduling a hearing. 

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Joseph Cervantes said he was told by Senate leadership that HB 12, a bill sponsored by Rep. Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, and Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, was undergoing changes before its final committee before the Senate floor. 

“I haven’t even heard from the bill sponsor,” Cervantes, a Democrat from Las Cruces, said. “My understanding is there’s a Senate Judiciary Committee sub that is in the works. That’s the only thing I’ve been told.”

A spokesman for the Senate Democratic leadership confirmed that Cervantes was indeed told there are changes being made to the bill. 

Martínez did not respond to an inquiry about what parts of his bill are being changed.

And while legalization proponents may be anxiously wondering if there is still enough time in the last days of the session to get a cannabis legalization bill to the governor’s desk before the session ends on Saturday at noon, Cervantes said the bigger concern should be whether changes to the bill will be approved by the Judiciary Committee. 

“The issue will be the caliber of the bill as it gets amended,” Cervantes said. “The bill in its present form is not ready to become a law.”

Cervantes did not specify which parts of the bill he thinks should be changed or how.

The other pending legalization bill, SB 288, sponsored by Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, is also awaiting a hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary. Cervantes said he plans to schedule both bills for the same day. Cervantes said he will schedule HB 12 as soon as he and other committee members are able to analyze it. 

The session ends on Saturday at noon, but Cervantes said he thinks HB 12 could still have a chance at passing even if it’s heard in committee as late as Friday. 

Senate leadership plans to have two floor sessions a day to pass legislation for the remainder of the session, but also still have other big issues to debate, including the state budget. 

HB 12 still needs to pass Senate Judiciary and the Senate Floor before being sent to the House for a concurrence vote. Then it would head to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for a signature. Lujan Grisham partially campaigned on and has advocated since in office for cannabis legalization. She has been mostly quiet when it comes to specifics on what she would like to see in a bill, but has signaled that she wants the state to be able to control production levels.