The House Commerce and Economic Development approved a bill that would allow for special licenses to grow, buy, sell or manufacture cannabis for approved research facilities Friday by a 6-3 vote. HB 334, sponsored by Rep. Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, would allow licensed research facilities to grow and transport cannabis and establish a Cannabis Control Division to regulate licensing. The state’s Regulation and Licensing Department (RLD) would oversee the Cannabis Control Division.
Martínez fielded questions from both Democratic and Republican committee members, but all of the criticisms came from Republicans. Some of those concerns were whether RLD is the best home for the Cannabis Control Department.
Martínez and his expert witnesses explained to the committee that under current federal law, research facilities can get approval from the Drug Enforcement Agency to grow cannabis, but those researchers must get their plants from the federal agency. If passed, HB 334 would allow New Mexico to issue special research licenses and researchers could grow their own cannabis or buy from another approved facility.
Rep. Kelly Fajardo, R-Los Lunas, said she didn’t think regulating cannabis is necessarily in the department’s purview.
A cannabis legalization bill passed its first committee Tuesday. The Senate Public Affairs voted 4-3 along party lines to pass SB 115 after hours of public comment and debate between lawmakers.
Even though a number of people spoke against legalization, they were largely outnumbered by those in favor of it.
For the most part, those who spoke out in opposition said they were concerned about safety and health issues like driving while impaired and addiction.
The bill’s sponsor and the committee chair, Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, did not present the bill. Instead, legalization proponent and medical cannabis patient Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, took the lead on selling the bill to the committee
Candelaria answered some concerns about testing drivers for cannabis use. There is no test for levels of cannabis like there is for alcohol. “Just because there is no test, doesn’t mean people won’t get caught for DWI,” Candelaria said.
Sixty-one percent of adults in New Mexico support legalizing and regulating recreational marijuana, according to a poll released Thursday by Research & Polling. When coupled with restrictions on where marijuana can be produced and requirements that sales revenue go toward health and drug rehab programs, that number supporting legalization jumps to 69 percent. Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, said the poll is evidence that the state is ready to join Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Arizona as states with legalized recreational marijuana. “What it shows is that New Mexicans support legalization,” he said. “Not just ex-hippies in Taos, not just people who read The Nation in Santa Fe, not just [University of New Mexico] students in Albuquerque, but people in every part of this state support legalization.”
Ortiz y Pino is proposing an amendment to the state constitution that would let voters decide whether to legalize in the general election this fall.