New Mexico lawmakers on Saturday considered a pair of competing bills to legalize marijuana but failed to hold a vote after the hearing ran long. The committee will return to issue on Monday, when members are also expected to take up possible amendments to the proposals.
Lawmakers have introduced a bevy of legalization legislation so far in the state’s 2021 legislative session, which is approaching its midpoint and is scheduled to end on March 20. In addition to the two House measures weighed at Saturday’s three-hour-long Health and Human Services Committee hearing, three others have been filed in the Senate.
All five bills would legalize use and commercial sales of marijuana and set tax rates between 16 and 20 percent.
Of the two House proposals, the most comprehensive is HB 12, which stretches nearly 200 pages.
“We know that the war on drugs has been an utter failure,” Rep. Javier Martinez (D), the bill’s lead sponsor, said. “We know that this country and its perceptions to drug use is shifting, particularly with regard to cannabis.”
His bill would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older, allow home cultivation of marijuana, regulate and tax the commercial industry and expunge past convictions for cannabis possession. Tax revenue would fund equity programs for Black and brown communities and support low-income medical marijuana patients.
It’s the preferred bill of advocates at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and other organizations because of the emphasis it places on social equity efforts to help communities that have been harmed by the war on drugs.
Emily Kaltenbach, DPA’s senior director of resident states and New Mexico, told Marijuana Moment that Saturday’s hearing was a good sign for legalization in general. “It shows that legalization will move forward in New Mexico,” she said afterward.
“The other thing that’s positive