March 26, 2021

Special session for cannabis legalization to start March 30

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced on Friday that she will call the state Legislature back for a special session on Tuesday, March 30. 

The special session will start just ten days after the end of the state’s regular, 60-day session. At the end of the regular session, Lujan Grisham said that she would call legislators into a special session soon to finish the effort.

The governor cited precautions in place because of COVID-19 as one reason why legislation ran out of time.

According to a statement from the governor’s office, the session will focus on recreational-use cannabis legalization and economic development through the state’s Local Economic Development Act (LEDA). 

Lujan Grisham said in the statement that cannabis legalization and reforming economic development are important enough for the state to call a special session. 

“The unique circumstances of the session, with public health safeguards in place, in my view prevented the measures on my call from crossing the finish line,” Lujan Grisham said. “While I applaud the Legislature and staff for their incredible perseverance and productivity during the 60-day in the face of these challenges, we must and we will forge ahead and finish the job on these initiatives together for the good of the people and future of our great state.”

During special sessions, legislators can only discuss legislation that the governor puts on the call.

The Legislature was unable to pass cannabis legalization during the regular 60-day session that ended earlier this month. While there was a bill that appeared to be favored and passed the House, it stalled out on the Senate floor, where it was never debated.  

Lujan Grisham said during her campaign in 2018 that cannabis legalization was a priority. Over a dozen states have legalized cannabis, though nearly all have done so through a voter referendum, an option not available in New Mexico. 

Lujan Grisham’s office said the Legislature will also consider a proposal to allow a portion of gross receipts taxes and revenue from construction projects to be placed in the state’s LEDA fund to help attract additional large projects to the state and to help pay for smaller projects. 

On Thursday, House Republicans criticized the timing, saying a special session should not take place during the week leading up to Easter Sunday.

“Does she realize that it’s Holy Week? We’ll likely end up working through Good Friday or possibly Easter Sunday,” said House Minority Whip Rod Montoya, R-Farmington. “The governor’s priorities and those of average New Mexicans are 180 degrees out of phase. The public is not in a mad panic to get recreational marijuana legalized, especially when it will cost taxpayers $83,000 a day to do it.”

Speaker of the House Brian Egolf, meanwhile, supported the special session.

“The recently concluded session was historic, with legislation supporting New Mexico’s economic recovery, small businesses, working families, students, and healthcare now on the Governor’s desk,” he said in a statement. “The upcoming special session will get legislation across the finish line that builds on the previous 60 days and helps secure a diverse economic future for all. Our work is not done.” 

The cost estimate of special sessions is typically $50,000 per day, though COVID-safe practices and increased security would likely add to the daily cost. The state recently passed a $7.4 billion state budget.