By law, the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department has about a month before it has to start accepting applications from businesses looking to enter the new, non-medical cannabis industry. The state’s Cannabis Regulation Act, which was signed into law in April, legalized the adult-use and possession of cannabis as well as home-cultivation. The new law also allows for commercial sales, but leaves much of the specifics up to rules and regulations.
RLD has to start accepting applications for cannabis business licenses no later than Sept. 1 and start issuing licenses no later than Jan. 1, 2022.
On the first day of legalized, recreational-use cannabis in New Mexico the department set to oversee the new industry held a rulemaking hearing.
During the hearing, held by the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department and its Cannabis Control Division, a long list of stakeholders shared their concerns about water conservation, racial and social equity and transparency. But the public comment included nearly as many questions for the department as there were concerns.
As New Mexico struggles with yet another drought this year, many who spoke at the meeting raised concerns about large cannabis companies adding to the state’s ongoing water problems.
Alejandría Lyons, the environmental justice organizer with the Southwest Organizing Project said she and the organization want to see more water-use oversight to protect the generations-old family farms across the state.
“We worry about our acequias, we worry about our farmers who have already been asked not to water, to fallow their fields,” Lyons said. “And more importantly, we are very worried about the oversight. The Office of the State Engineer is already at capacity, and we fear that we need higher regulation to prevent illegal water use, especially in a drought year, as we’re seeing right now.”
Jaimie Park, the policy coordinator and staff attorney for the New Mexico Acequia Association said that although the Cannabis Regulation Act details water requirements like showing proof of access to water or water rights, she and the association would like to see deliberate rules regarding legal access to water.
“It’s really important that the regulatory language mirror the statutory language so that this important water protection mandate is lawfully and meaningfully implemented through these draft rules,” Park said.
Park added that she and the association submitted written comments with suggestions that RLD and the Cannabis Control Division add stringent water reporting requirements for cannabis cultivators.
One of the major selling points during the special legislative session that resulted in the newly effective Cannabis Regulation Act was social justice and equity. The bill’s sponsors argued that legalization should also include a minimally restrictive path for New Mexicans to enter the industry.
Pending a signature from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, New Mexico is set to become the latest state to fully legalize cannabis. And while the state has received an abundance of national attention for the feat, some may have forgotten or overlooked the national attention a former governor garnered more than two decades ago for his, then-controversial, stance that cannabis should be legalized.
In the late 1990s, then-Gov. Gary Johnson, at the time a Republican, made national headlines for advocating for full legalization of cannabis, nearly seven years before the state would legalize medical-use cannabis and more than a decade before Colorado became the first state to legalize recreational-use cannabis.
Since leaving office after his second term as governor, Johnson twice ran for president and once for U.S. Senate as a Libertarian.
Johnson told NM Political Report that he’s not one to say, “I told you so,” but that he is proud of being an early advocate for full legalization. “I do take pride, and I would not mind my obituary, if anybody runs it, saying that ‘This was the highest elected official in the country to call for marijuana legalization for about 15 years,’” he said. “I mean, I think I held that title for about 15 years.”
Lujan Grisham called for a special session, in part, to legalize adult-use cannabis and expunge prior cannabis related criminal records.
Much of the criticism from Republicans during the special session was that New Mexico is just not ready to legalize. But others, namely Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, argued that specifics of the cannabis industry should be left to the free market and not overly regulated by the state.
A bill to expunge cannabis-related criminal offenses that would no longer be illegal if cannabis is legalized is headed to the governor’s desk. The effort began with 11 amendments in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, which the committee later adopted as a committee substitute, and another on the Senate floor, a speedy move through the special legislative session. The Senate passed the bill on a 23-13 vote after about one hour of discussion early Wednesday afternoon. The House later passed the bill on a 41-28 vote after over an hour and a half of debate. The bill aims to automatically expunge the criminal offenses, under the state’s expungement law, that would no longer be illegal under cannabis legalization which was being debated by the Senate.
A Senate committee passed a heavily amended piece of legislation to expunge the criminal records of those convicted of cannabis-related crimes that would no longer be crimes under the proposed cannabis legalization bill working its way through the special session. The bill would provide for automatic expungement of cannabis related offenses that would no longer be illegal under the new law. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-3 to pass the bill after hours of technical discussion on language and a series of amendments to clarify the law. “I think a critical part of our state moving forward with the cannabis legislation is making sure that folks who have been convicted or arrested or dealt with the fallout of offenses that were based on actions that in the cannabis regulation act passes will no longer be crimes aren’t suffering the negative impacts of that,” Sen. Katy Duhigg, an Albuquerque Democrat who is one of five sponsors of the bill, said. Among the numerous amendments adopted in the committee were to remove the role of the Attorney General in reviewing cases of those incarcerated to have the cannabis-related portions of their convictions removed from their conviction and one that would clarify that only the portions of records related to cannabis would be removed from the record.
The New Mexico Legislature is slated to start a special session Tuesday to address economic development and full cannabis legalization. But there is still a question of how much support cannabis legalization will garner from both Republicans and Democrats.
About an hour after the regular 2021 legislative session ended, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, flanked by Democratic legislative leaders in a news conference, announced that she would call legislators back for a special session to pick up where they left off with recreational-use cannabis legalization. The session started out with five legalization bills, but by the last week there was only one proposal: HB 12. Sponsored by Democratic Reps. Javier Martínez of Albuquerque and Andrea Romero of Santa Fe, HB 12 quickly became the favored bill for many Democrats, but hit a rough patch as it passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.
ByWufei Yu and Ed Williams, Searchlight New Mexico |
Last year, Dineh Benally, the former president of San Juan River Farm Board in the Navajo Nation, oversaw the transformation of 400 acres of cropland into illegal marijuana farms across the Shiprock chapter in the northeast corner of the reservation. Despite a state, federal and tribal crackdown on the operation, multiple sources told Searchlight New Mexico and High Country News that he is attempting to establish new cannabis ventures in other Native communities. A source confirmed the same to Navajo Times. This story was originally published in Searchlight New Mexico and High Country News and is republished with permission. Since the November raids, Navajo Nation Police Chief Philip Francisco told Searchlight New Mexico and High Country News that law enforcement did not know Benally’s whereabouts and presumed he was in hiding.
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.
A House proposal to legalize and regulate cannabis passed the chamber on a 39-31 vote, with six Democrats breaking rank to vote against the measure.
HB 12, sponsored by Democratic Reps. Javier Martínez of Albuquerque and Andrea Romero of Santa Fe, would fully legalize the sale and production of cannabis for adults, allow home cultivation and would expunge previous minor drug convictions. The bill would also implement an eight percent excise tax on the sale of cannabis and a local government tax up to four percent. Recreational-use cannabis would also be subject to gross receipts taxes, while medical-use cannabis would not.
Martínez said the three major tenets of the bill are to protect New Mexico’s current medical-use cannabis program, ensure an equitable and just industry and to create a regulated industry that will thrive.
Romero told her colleagues she shared the sentiments of her cosponsor and said cannabis has been used for various purposes for centuries, including in her own family.
Rep. Derrick Lente, D-Sandia Pueblo explained why he opposed the bill. He raised concerns about how a fully-legalized cannabis program might impact tribal governments in the state.
Two state senators on opposite sides of the political aisle introduced competing bills Monday to legalize recreational marijuana in New Mexico. A third proposal, also filed Monday, is expected to be formally introduced Tuesday in the House of Representatives, and other bills could be forthcoming. The push to legalize cannabis for recreational adult use comes after previous efforts failed under a more conservative group of New Mexico lawmakers. It also comes as the state government seeks to diversify its revenue sources to reduce its heavy reliance on oil and gas. But the two senators who introduced the first cannabis legalization bills of this year’s 60-day legislative session, and the state director of the nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance, said generating revenue shouldn’t be the driving force.