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The news is in, New Mexico to legalize recreational cannabis. Under the new law, adults 21 and older will legally be able to use and grow weed for personal use. The state's adult-use market is expected to launch on April 1, 2022.
Since November 2020, a total of 7 states have passed marijuana reform to end its prohibition.
New Mexico to Legalize Recreational Cannabis but What Is Legal?
Under the new law (HB 2) and starting on June 29, 2021, the following is legal for adults over the age of 21:
- Possession and purchasing limit: Adults may possess, purchase, and gift other adults the following:
- Up to 2 ounces of cannabis
- Up to 16 grams of cannabis concentrates
- Up to 800 grams of edible cannabis
- Home possession limit: Adults may possess more than the cannabis possession limit only if it is stored at home in a locked space not visible from public spaces.
- Home cultivation limit: Adults may grow up to 6 plants per person or 12 plants per household.
- Cooking and extraction: Adults may make cannabis-infused foods at home and extracts that do not require volatile solvents.
- Smoking cannabis in public is punishable by a $50 fine.
- Possession of more than 2 to 8 ounces of cannabis, 16 to 65 grams of concentrate, and 800 to 3,299 milligrams of edibles are punishable with up to 364 days in jail. Possession of more than these quantities is a felony.
- Underage possession of cannabis is punishable with 4 hours of community service or 4-hour drug education and legal rights program.
- Driving under the influence of cannabis remains illegal.
What to Expect From the New Legal Cannabis Industry
Under the bill, a Cannabis Control Division will be created within the Regulation and Licensing Department to license cannabis businesses. The following license types will be available:
- Cannabis consumption areas
- Couriers and transporters
- Research labs
- Testing labs
- Cannabis training and education programs
- Cannabis microbusinesses with multiple roles
- Vertically-integrated businesses
Local governments will not be allowed to prohibit home cultivation or commercial cannabis activity from their jurisdiction. However, they can place restrictions on where the shop can be located and its hours of operation.
Municipalities may also allow indoor and outdoor cannabis smoking and vaping in certain locations.
In addition, tribal nations and pueblos may participate in the state’s legal cannabis industry.
Cannabis sales will be taxed at a 12% rate which will increase at a rate of 1 percentage point per year to 18% on July 1, 2030, in addition to the current sales tax.
Medical marijuana purchases will not be taxed.
One-third of the cannabis excise tax revenue will go to the municipality where the sales occurred. Another third of the tax fund will go to the county where the sales occurred.
Expungement and Resentencing
In a companion bill (SB 2) signed during the special legislative session, lawmakers voted to allow past cannabis convictions to be expunged from criminal records. Minors will be able to expunge their record upon turning 18.
Individuals currently serving jail time will be eligible for resentencing. People who have already served time for marijuana-related charges will be eligible for dismissal of their sentences.
The Department of Public Safety must notify the proper authorities of convictions eligible for dismissal and expungement by January 1, 2022. By July 2022, prosecutors must determine if they will challenge a dismissal or expungement if the case does not meet the criteria established.
Medical Cannabis Reform
Under the new law, medical patients will no longer be required to have an in-person exam by a certifying practitioner on the first visit. Now, patients will be able to become certified for medical cannabis use and renewed through telemedicine services.
Until December 31st, 2022, 25% of monthly sales from cannabis businesses must be to registered patients, out-of-state patients, and caregivers. Regulators may also take action to prevent a shortage of medical cannabis.
A Timeline of Cannabis Legalization in New Mexico
New Mexico was the first state to enact any cannabis law in 1978. However, it restricted medical cannabis use through a federally approved research program. In 2007, the state legalized cannabis for medical use.
A bill to legalize cannabis was passed in the house in March 2019. In July 2019, the state passed a law decriminalizing possession of up to one-half ounce of cannabis, punishable by a $50 fine.
In the 2020 Democratic primary, voters were able to remove the strongest opponents of cannabis legalization from the state Senate. This allowed recreational cannabis to become a reality.
Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has been a strong proponent of legalizing cannabis over the past few years. Grisham cited job creation, increasing state revenue, and racial justice as the main priorities for cannabis reform.
Most recently, she called a special session of the legislature in late March to approve legal cannabis after lawmakers were unable to pass a legalization bill during the regular session.
Democratic Representative Xavier Martinez was the lead sponsor of the bill that won approval in the House in February and was stalled in the Senate. His bill focused on supporting the communities most affected by prohibition. The bill was aimed to reduce over-policing, offer automatic expungement, and give entrepreneurs the ability to get a micro license.
A competing bill by Republican Senator Cliff Pirtle of Roswell focused on a free market approach with low taxes and low prices meant to reduce the black market’s power. In addition, it would allow employers the right to establish a drug-free workplace and direct funding to improve highway safety from mpaired drivers.
Regulators are expected to begin accepting applications for cannabis business licenses for producers, micro-business producers, and medical cannabis businesses as early as September 2021.
Regulators have until the beginning of 2022 to develop the regulatory framework and license the rest of the businesses.
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