Tight restrictions on advertising and pushes for education are just a few things in New Mexico’s comprehensive cannabis legalization bill. Years in the making, it’s finally expected to pass Thursday with the governors signature, and takes effect next year.
“We probably took longer than it needed to for some states who've done it," said Representative Andrea Romero of Santa Fe.
New Mexico’s Cannabis Regulation Act is the latest effort targeted at recreational marijuana legalization. The bill coming after a two day legislative session marathon, that came 10 days after regular session ended.
“There just wasn't enough time with so many important issues that we needed to pass through," said Rep. Romero.
Before that, the bill was in the works for 5 years, according to Romero. She says New Mexico is among the few states to legalize marijuana without a ballot.
“When it's it's not just a ballot initiative, you really get into the policy and the nitty-gritty to make sure that we get it right," Rep. Romero said.
The bill will open the doors to legal recreational pot sales, by this time next year. That will make New Mexico the 16th state to have done so. However, the bill not only decriminalizes marijuana, it also expunges marijuana possession and use charges. Which is “a standard feature in cannabis legislation around the country," According to DeVaughn Ward, Senior Legislative Council at The Marijuana Policy Project.
Ward says communities of color have faced the brunt of the war on drugs, and legalization removes some restrictions based on marijuana convictions. However he adds, it’s important to give those communities "market opportunities, for business ownership and employment in this new market space.”
In New Mexico, they’re getting an estimated to $318,000,000 from that new market.
“That we can purpose into education, public safety, public health, roads, you name it," said Rep. Romero.
Ward adds legalization not only brings in revenue, but comes with savings.
“You don't have court cost, police cost, incarceration cost, for folks being incarcerated for this product," said Ward.
Now the Land Of Enchantment has had medicinal marijuana use for a while meaning Texas has been surrounded by medicinal states, which puts pressure on the Lone Star State to follow.
“It gets tough for states, because they can't be an island of prohibition,” said Ward. “The reality is the residents of your state will likely be a short drive away from access from this product legally, and at that point you're not really protecting anybody. You're really just missing out on revenue and continuing the spend revenue incarcerating folks for a product that they can purchase legally in another state.”