A bill to legalize the recreational use of cannabis was just approved by the House Judiciary Committee in Santa Fe, New Mexico, making it one step closer to becoming law. House Bill 356 now moves to the House floor for a vote which could take place as early as Wednesday.
“I think most people recognize the war on drugs has failed, and this is one way of addressing that failure,” said Rep. Javier Martinez (D-Albuquerque), co-sponsor of House Bill 356.
Same same but different legislation, introduced by Republicans, was also approved by the state Senate on the same Saturday that HB 356 was approved by the House Judiciary Committee.
“We came to the conclusion that legalization is coming,” Sen. Cliff Pirtle (R-Roswell) said. “How can we do it in a way that’s more responsible, so we don’t have the negative social impacts that Colorado and other states have had?”
Introduced by Democrat Representatives Javier Martinez, Antonio “Moe” Maestas, Daymon Ely, Deborah A. Armstrong, and Angelica Rubio, HB 356 would legalize the recreational possession and use of cannabis by adults aged 21 and older.
Protecting the rights of medical marijuana patients, residents would also be permitted to cultivate up to six mature plants at one time under the House bill. Home cultivation would not be negotiable, but each municipality would be able to decide if retail sales would be allowed.
Unlike the proposal in the House, growing at home would not be legal under the Senate bill.
“So we wanted to sit down at the table and give our solution, as Republicans, to how we would like to see the regulation of cannabis,” Sen. Pirtle said. The childproof packaging of cannabis products, including details about where the product originated, was most emphasized in the Senate bill.
Medical cannabis patients in the Land of Enchantment are not as supportive of the Senate’s version of legalization. “It is not like a batch of cookies where you can go buy ingredients and get more. You have to wait for a whole plant to grow itself before you can get more medicine,” said patient advocate Ginger Grider.
Michelle Lujan-Grisham, Governor of New Mexico, has stated that she agrees with patients like Grider. While the details may not yet be settled, recreational legalization may occur in New Mexico as early as this year.
The Senate bill must be approved by more committees and the floor before it may be sent to the House for a vote. If the full House supports HB 356 next week, it will move to the Senate for consideration.
Gov. Lujan-Grisham is expected to sign the bill into law if it makes it to her desk.
On Monday, October 19, Canadian citizens ousted their Conservative Party Prime Minister of nearly a decade, Stephen Harper, in a general election and instead selected Justin Trudeau, the Liberal Party candidate. While public policy toward medical and recreational cannabis is typically supported most by liberal or progressive politicians, Trudeau stands out based on his campaign promise of legalizing recreational marijuana at the federal level in the Great White North.
During the campaign, the Liberal Party proclaimed:
“We will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana. Canada’s current system of marijuana prohibition does not work.”
If Trudeau and the Liberal Party are able to achieve federal legalization of recreational cannabis, it will result in the first developed nation to do so. Currently, Uruguay is the only country to have legalized recreational cannabis at the federal level.
Given Canada’s tight trading relationship with the U.S. and the long border the two countries share, such a policy shift would certainly gain the attention of those in Washington who oppose legalization and the current state-level medical and recreational “experiments” that exist in the States.
While Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia have legalized and begun regulating recreational marijuana, Canada’s acceptance of the herb on a national level could signal a new revolt to decades-old international treaties prohibiting a slew of drugs, including cannabis. These treaties, a collection of international agreements and laws led by the United States and orchestrated via the United Nations, were signed over a 27-year period between the 1960s and 1980s.
There are currently three major international drug policy treaties, all signed between 1961 and 1988:
- 1961: Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs
- 1971: Convention on Psychotropic Drugs
- 1988: UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances
Canada’s secession from these treaties would send a progressive, rebellious signal to the international community that the economic, political, and regulatory models evolving — and thriving — in states like Colorado, California, and Washington should be heeded as a positive example by the world. Lower crime, increased tax revenues, improved public health, and an overall better economy can all be claimed by both first and third world nations that legalize in an effort to join the small enclaves of the world, like Oregon and Uruguay, that have chosen a decidedly 21st century approach to drug policy.
Trudeau’s Liberal Party believes that public policy must be progressive and embrace marijuana legalization, treating it as public health and economic growth opportunity issue, not a criminal one. “If we pass smart laws that tax and strictly regulate marijuana, we can better protect our kids, while preventing millions of dollars from going into the pockets of criminal organizations and street gangs.”
Wrote German Lopez on the topic:
“So Canada’s decision to legalize pot — if it comes, and that’s still unsure — would be the most high-profile rebuke of the international treaties since they were signed.”
Whether Canada, under its new, young, charismatic leader will actually succeed in legalizing cannabis remains uncertain. The Conservative Party and others opposed to such progressive legislation aren’t dead; they simply lost a federal election. But the will of the people in Canada is clear: They want rational, progressive laws, regulations, and taxes applied to legal recreational cannabis, finally completing the federal-level medical cannabis program the country implemented way back in 2001 — and that Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party have been fighting against ever since.