After a failed attempt to legalize adult cannabis last year, the New Mexico Legislature is picking up the issue again, this time with a stronger focus on social justice.
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So far, four legalization bills have been introduced in the legislature – two in the Senate and two in the House of Representatives. Legislators are essentially considering three different versions of legalization proposals as one of the Senate bills is identical to the House of Representatives version.
“They all have some similarities, but there is really only one that is really centered [on] Justice and social justice are vital to the Drug Policy Alliance, but especially to the communities in New Mexico that have been harmed by prohibited practices, ”said Emily Kaltenbach, senior director of Resident States and New Mexico for Drug Policy Alliance, said Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary.
That bill, Kaltenbach said, is House Bill 12, sponsored by representatives Javier Martinez and Andrea Romero.
“Rep. Martinez has been working on this topic for years, ”said Kaltenbach. “He firmly believes that social justice and justice must be the basis of a legalization law. Obviously, we want every bill to come through and get to the governor’s desk to center [on] social justice and justice, and that’s what we’re going to fight for in this session. “
HB 12 aims to create diversity in companies through a microbusiness license type that will give companies a head start in the adult use program alongside existing state medical cannabis licensees. These licenses would then be scaled based on size and type so that small businesses pay less license fees than larger businesses.
“It’s really important in a state like New Mexico because we have a lot of family businesses that we’d like to see in a new industry,” said Kaltenbach. “We want to make sure that small businesses can enter the new industry where they don’t need as much capital to participate. So these license terms are really important and critical. “
Legislation would also require adult cannabis operators to develop an equity plan for their businesses, and those with previous beliefs about cannabis could not be prevented from participating in the industry based on that belief alone.
In addition, the bill contains provisions that not only automatically overturn convictions related to cannabis, but also disapprove of those currently serving time for such crimes.
HB 12 also enables cannabis to be grown at home and contains language that protects medical cannabis patients and adult consumers from denying public services or healthcare because of a positive cannabis drug test.
The legislation would also prevent children from being taken out of their families and prevent parents from being denied custody or visitation rights based solely on cannabis use.
The measure would reinvest funds from adult cannabis tax revenues in the communities hardest hit by the ban. The bill provides for a Community Reinvestment Fund, where 35% of excise tax revenue would support qualified communities.
While the Drug Policy Alliance supports all of these provisions, Kaltenbach would like the bill to go further to examine how the state’s tribal nations can participate in an adult cannabis market.
“I think that’s really important in a state like New Mexico where we have so many sovereign nations to make sure that the nations and tribes participate too,” she said.
The organization would also want more innovative license types, Kaltenbach added, such as a co-op license that would allow local communities to own some of the licenses.
Legislation in New Mexico is now in the middle of its 60-day term, but Kaltenbach expects the proposals to legalize cannabis will take effect in the next week or so.
“Time is definitely not on our side but we will work hard,” she said.
The first stop of HB 12 is the House Health and Human Services Committee, which could take up the bill as early as next week. The legislation is then sent to the House Tax Committee before being sent to the Senate for consideration.
“I think we’re going to see a lot of negotiations as there are four different bills and this is a priority … to see how all of these measures come together so we can get them to the governor’s desk,” said Kaltenbach. “I think once the House bill goes to the Senate and the Senate hears those bills, we’ll see the pace accelerate.”
Although legalization of adult use has stalled in the past, Kaltenbach said the chances of meaningful policy reform seem better this year, as long as some key disagreements can be resolved.
First and foremost, she said, the issue is the number of plants and whether licensed cultivators should be able to grow a limited or unlimited number of plants under the adult program, an issue raised in the medical program of New Mexico has long been controversial.
“I really think it depends on whether everyone can come to the table and agree on the key provisions, and of course we think every bill needs to be centered [on] Justice and social justice, ”said Kaltenbach. “If not, it’s a non-runner for us.”