With a never-before-seen and very close call on Thursday, the New Mexico Senate Rules Committee passed a proposed constitutional amendment, with a 5 to 4 vote, that would legalize, regulate and tax a recreational cannabis market in the Land of Enchantment.
This is the first time that a legislative body has made the first move towards retail marijuana. Until now, all recreational measures had been introduced by a voter initiative.
The bill, Senate Joint Resolution 2 sponsored by Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino (D-12-Bernalillo), would legalize the possession and personal use of marijuana for all adults 21 years of age and older. It also allows lawmakers to design the licensing process and regulations for the “production, processing, transportation, sale, taxation and acceptable quantities and places of use.” This means that they would be able to develop and establish a permitting process for a retail marijuana market. The legalization of hemp is also included in this amendment proposal.
New Mexico state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, Emil Kaltenback, commented on the historic vote,
“Today’s vote sets in motion the process to put the issue on a 2016 statewide ballot for voters. Marijuana prohibition in New Mexico has clearly failed. It hasn’t reduced use and instead has resulted in the criminalization of people, gross racial disparities, and enormous fiscal waste. Senator Ortiz y Pino’s resolution will allow our legislature rethink how we can enhance the health and safety of all New Mexicans through sensible reforms.”
The legalization of recreational marijuana is not only expected to significantly reduce the amount of non-violent, petty drug arrests. It is also estimated that a legal market would bring in millions of dollars in tax revenue to the state.
Should this bill be entirely approved by the New Mexico Legislature, it does not automatically become law. The voters will still have the final say in the matter. Being passed by the Legislature would place the amendment on the 2016 ballot. If the majority of voters approve the ballot measure in 2016, only then would it become law.
This is really a smart move legislatively because this way the lawmakers are able to shape the law to meet their ideals, rather than allowing the voters to design the amendment, because it is not an easy process for a legislature to amend a voter initiated measure once the people have spoken.
It is risky for any legislative body to be the first to stand up in favor of a retail marijuana market. Even if this bill is not approved any further, this was still a monumental decision and a courageous first-step that will go down in the marijuana prohibition history books