April 12, 2021

Governor signs cannabis legalization into law

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Monday signed two bills that, together, legalize the use and possession of cannabis and expunge previous cannabis related criminal records. 

“This legislation is a major, major step forward for our state,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “Legalized adult-use cannabis is going to change the way we think about New Mexico for the better – our workforce, our economy, our future. We’re ready to break new ground. We’re ready to invest in ourselves and the limitless potential of New Mexicans. And we’re ready to get to work in making this industry a successful one.”  

The New Mexico Legislature passed HB 2 and SB 2 last month during a special session. HB 2 legalizes the use and possession of cannabis for adults 21 years of age and older, allows for home cultivation of up to six plants and creates a tiered industry licensure system. The law also creates a state Cannabis Regulation Division, which is overseen by the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Division. 

Rep. Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, was one of the lead sponsors of HB 2 and a cosponsor of SB 2. Martínez was also a lead sponsor of legalization efforts in previous years. The Albuquerque lawmaker said fully legalizing cannabis will create more tax revenue, which he said  will continually benefit New Mexico.  

“Today, New Mexico seized a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to establish a multi-million industry with a framework that’s right for our state and will benefit New Mexicans for generations to come,” Martínez said. 

SB 2 is an outgrowth of previous legislative efforts that sought to legalize adult-use cannabis, but also automatically expunge criminal records for those who were convicted under old drug laws. Both Senate and House Democrats agreed to strategically separate expungement provisions from the legalization effort after the Legislature failed to get a proposal to Lujan Grisham before the regular session ended. 

Rep. Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, was another lead sponsor of the cannabis legalization bill and a cosponsor of the expungement effort. Romero said the separate expungement bill will ensure those with a cannabis conviction will not be held back from finding work. 

“For decades, our communities of color have been discriminated against for minor cannabis offenses, so we must ensure that those who would not be arrested today do not continue to be incarcerated or held back by criminal records for acts that are no longer crimes,” Romero said. 

The newly signed law requires the state to automatically expunge the records of those with previous cannabis convictions, which the Santa Fe Reporter found was a much greater number than previously expected.      

Both laws go into effect on June 29, though cannabis sales would not begin until April of 2022.