By Robert Nott, The Santa Fe New Mexican
A measure intended to “clean up and address unintended consequences” of New Mexico’s Cannabis Regulation Act, according to its sponsor, faced a flurry of proposed amendments on the Senate floor Monday and underwent hours of debate.
Lawmakers’ wrangling over Senate Bill 6, sponsored by Sen. Katy Duhigg, D-Albuquerque, put a spotlight on gaps that remain in the law governing the still-budding industry and disagreements over how to fill them.
The debate also stirred up questions about conflicts of interest after the Senate Judiciary Committee recently amended the bill by removing a clause prohibiting state lawmakers from getting involved in the cannabis industry before Jan. 1, 2026.
The Senate voted 25-15 to approve SB 6, sending it to the House of Representatives for consideration with just nine days left in the session.
Among other changes, the bill would provide procedures for background checks; exempt retailers from proving they have water rights; and allow residents with a liquor license to also obtain a cannabis retail license, though both products could not be sold at the same location.
One provision in the original measure — prohibiting drive-up windows — was removed by an amendment on the floor, while an amendment allowing for a moratorium on new licenses failed to gain enough votes to be adopted.
Sen. Harold Pope Jr., D-Albuquerque, introduced an amendment Monday to restore language preventing lawmakers from getting involved in the industry for another two years, but the effort failed.
Other senators from both political parties argued the state’s “citizen” lawmakers earn a living in a number of fields — education, law, farming, the restaurant industry — without similar restrictions.
Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, said Pope’s amendment would set “a dangerous precedent.”
Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, introduced the proposed amendment allowing businesses with drive-thru windows to operate, noting Duhigg’s version could potentially shut down some retailers.
Several senators argued against the amendment, noting the state shut down all of its drive-thru liquor stores because of concerns about drunken driving.
Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, who said drunk drivers killed one of his law partners and a former girlfriend, said, “We have a serious problem in our state and we have to address it aggressively. … Marijuana and alcohol both impair driving.”
Still, Steinborn’s amendment passed on a vote of 21-20.
Other votes on proposed amendments were equally close.
One proposed by Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, would have given the superintendent of the state Regulation and Licensing Department, which oversees the cannabis industry, the power to place a moratorium on issuing new licenses.
Ortiz y Pino said too often New Mexicans trying to break into the business find there are so many cannabis operators, it’s impossible for newcomers to be competitive in the market.
The proposal stalled on a vote of 21-21, leading Lt. Gov. Howie Morales to break the tie. He opposed the amendment.