John Mondragon goes shopping at Minerva medical dispensary in Santa Fe on Tuesday. Cannabis was legalized for recreational use in New Mexico this year. (AP photo)
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Adult possession and cultivation of recreational cannabis became legal in New Mexico Tuesday, leaving many Chaves County officials concerned about the impact of a legal open market for the substance on communities.
In accordance with House Bill 2 (HB 2), passed by Legislature and signed by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham in April, New Mexico adults 21 and older can now legally own up to 2 ounces of cannabis and 16 grams of cannabis extract, or 800 milligrams of edibles outside of their place of residence.
According to HB 2, cannabis in large quantities can be stored in a private apartment as long as it is “not visible from a public place”. People can also grow up to six marijuana plants – with a household limit of 12 – for personal use. State regulators are still working to establish operating rules for retailers, manufacturing facilities and other facilities, with the first licenses being issued by April.
New Mexico joins 18 other states, the District of Columbia and Guam for legalizing recreational cannabis. In a press release on Tuesday, Lujan Grisham hailed legalization as “a big step forward” for the state.
“We are proactively stopping the criminalization of people of color for possessing cannabis and building a new industry that all New Mexicans can participate in – and will bring millions of dollars to our communities and our state,” she said.
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Roswell Police Chief Phil Smith said legalization will not bring about any significant changes to the day-to-day operations of his department. He said he and the city have been preparing for possible legalization since 2017, prompting the department not to certify any of their four drug sniffing dogs for cannabis detection.
“We still have a strong community here and believe we can do our business,” he said. “Things change and we adapt.”
Smith said law enforcement has rarely made arresting people for possession of small quantities of cannabis a high priority and decriminalization is not a problem in that regard.
However, he has greater concerns about opening cannabis stores in the next year, which will lead to greater demand, and what he believes are other implications such as an increase in crime, mental health problems and homelessness.
“What people don’t see or want to ignore is the side effects,” he said of the legalization.
Chaves County Sheriff Mike Herrington said law enforcement will face challenges related to road safety as no field test is available to determine if a person with cannabis in their system has been compromised while driving.
He added that HB 2 also does not provide a way for law enforcement agencies to determine whether marijuana found on a person was illegally purchased or grown.
“Whenever it ends up in a sack, we don’t know where it’s coming from,” Herrington said during a June 16 panel discussion that included Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh and Senator Cliff Pirtle on the potential impact of legalization participated.
A consumption tax of 12% is levied on the commercial sale of cannabis products, which is levied in addition to the gross income tax, which varies depending on the legal system. This excise tax will increase each year from 2025 before it reaches 18% plus gross income tax.
A tax impact report on HB 2 estimates that the excise tax is expected to raise $ 20 million for the state and $ 10 million for local governments in fiscal 2023.
However, Kintigh said he believes the revenue from the sale of cannabis will be outweighed by the increased costs associated with legalization.
“We’re going to have to spend more money on behavioral and mental health, we’re going to have more law enforcement requirements,” he said.
Pirtle said he believes the cost of compliance and obtaining licenses will be too high for most small producers in New Mexico.
“The cost of entering the market is so high that you will see a tremendous influx of money and producers outside of the state,” he said.
Heather Brewer, spokeswoman for the Cannabis Control Division in the New Mexico Regulation & Licensing Department, said Monday that a tiered licensing system will be available to potential entrepreneurs and producers.
“So we hope that anyone who wants to enter this market can take advantage of this economic opportunity,” she said. While the department is working on developing the new rules for producers and companies, further input from the brewers is still being sought.
Unlike California and some other states, HB 2 does not allow municipalities to prohibit the operation of cannabis businesses within their respective jurisdictions. However, the law allows appropriate time, place and type rules, such as: B. Limitations on the density of authorized establishments and operating hours.
“My position is that we treat it like alcohol,” said Kintigh. Examples he said would be a ban on selling marijuana on Sundays within city limits and a ban on selling marijuana within 90 meters of a church.
Law enforcement agencies also warned that despite the legalization of recreational marijuana, RPD officials and Chaves County Sheriff’s Deputies will be banned from recreational marijuana use. Smith added that the city is running random drug tests on its officials, which will continue and the department will not relax its hiring standards.
Kintigh, a former FBI agent, also said that while possession in New Mexico might be legal under state law, it is still a federal crime.
Breaking News reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, extension. 301, or Breakingnews@rdrnews.com.