On April 3, New Mexico became the newest state to decriminalize pot-possession. The law, which moves marijuana possession from a criminal conviction to a civil citation, goes into effect on July 1 of this year.
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed SB 323 into law, which makes possession of less than half an ounce of weed a civil citation that comes with a whopping $50 fine rather than a conviction on a person’s criminal record.
The signage of SB 323 into law marks New Mexico as the 24th state to officially lessen criminal penalties for cannabis possession. Unfortunately, the new measure does not address either the legalization of recreational marijuana use or the sale of marijuana for recreational purposes.
While Grisham supports legalization, and voters approve of the issue at a rate of 60 percent according to a survey conducted in 2018, the Land of Enchantment state has yet to pass substantive policy language which lends to the legalization of cannabis.
A bill which would have legalized the recreational use of cannabis narrowly survived the committee process in the state House, but ultimately stalled in the Senate.
The bill that made state history but not state law
New Mexico’s legislature was on the cusp of getting a legalization bill through the legislative process and onto the governor’s desk. This legalization bill was the first of its kind to survive to the second legislative house, but ultimately stalled in the Senate Finance Committee.
State Speaker of the House Brian Egolf told local news channel KOB4 that he felt the bill could have survived the second house if it had been given a proper committee hearing, but he remains optimistic about legalization’s chances in the coming years.
“I think we got really far, and sometimes these bills, you just have to kind of keep at it year after year, and when we look at the creation of the medical cannabis program, that wasn’t done in a single year either,” Egolf said. “It followed a path very similar to the one recreational cannabis is on. It came back year after year after year. I think it took three or four sessions to finally get it done.”
In spite of the fact that the legalization bill did not pass, it paved the way for potential policies for pot-entrepreneurs.
The legalization bill would have established a network of marijuana dispensaries owned and operated by the state. Through this network, the state would license private growers and manufacturers to produce pot for retail purposes. Then the state’s retail stores could accept the pot on consignment, meaning that growers and manufacturers wouldn’t be paid until after the pot products had sold.
This network of marijuana dispensaries would be utterly unique to New Mexico as no other state has a licensing system like the one proposed in the failed bill; however, it is similar to the alcohol selling model that states like Utah and New Hampshire currently have.
In spite of the fact that the legalization bill failed, Grisham has vowed to make legalization part of her 2020 legislative agenda. As the 2020 legislative session is only 30 days long, she will have considerable influence over the legislature’s calendar.