It is now legal to own and grow recreational marijuana in New Mexico.
The milestone was celebrated by cannabis consumers and criminal justice reform advocates, who say poor and minority communities have been disproportionately prosecuted for using marijuana. Now, the smell of marijuana is no longer reason enough to search vehicles and property in New Mexico.
Recreational marijuana is now legal in 16 states and Washington, D.C., Connecticut and Virginia are set to join the list on Thursday.
New Mexico joins a wave of states that have widely legalized pot through the legislative process rather than through voter-approved ballot initiatives. This has allowed innovations such as the marijuana “microbusiness” license that would allow up to 200 pot plants in seed-to-sale cannabis operations.
Democratic Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham declared the day as “a major step forward for both social justice and economic development in our state.”
After repeatedly faltering legalization efforts in the Democratic-led legislature, Lujan Grisham called a special legislative session in March to tackle cannabis reforms and signed it into law in April.
“We are actively preventing the disproportionate criminalization of people of color for cannabis possession, and we are building a new industry,” Lujan Grisham said in a news release.
The new law allows people 21 and older to own up to 2 ounces (56 grams) of marijuana. By April 2022, individuals will be allowed to grow six plants at home or a total of 12 plants per family.
Regulators held public hearings throughout the day on proposed rules for cannabis businesses to determine future license fees, quality controls, audit requirements and limits on criminal background checks for producers.
The rules they’re considering would allow more marijuana crops per business — nearly three times the 1,750-plant limit for medical cannabis growers. Enrollment in the medical marijuana program has increased past 100,000 people in the state of 2.1 million residents.
Medical users of the Minerva Cannabis dispensary in Santa Fe welcomed changes taking effect Tuesday — including eliminating taxes on personal supplies of medical cannabis.
Auror Blake of Santa Fe, a 70-year-old retired administrator, uses marijuana to treat nerve pain associated with his multiple sclerosis. She says the changes are likely to ease the financial stress of buying cannabis.
“I’m on a budget,” Blake said. “It’s going to help me because I can have six plants instead of four. In the past, I’ve grown up a lot. “
Recreational marijuana sales beginning April 1, 2022 will include a 12% excise duty in addition to sales taxes ranging from approximately 5% to 9%.
Governors and lawmakers are eager to promote a new source of revenue that could help reduce the state’s heavy reliance on the oil industry.
Medical stores may not yet sell recreational cannabis, but are looking to expand showrooms to non-medical users.
John Mondragon, 56, of Santa Fe, ordered a cannabis-infused lemonade to help relieve his post-traumatic stress.
“I’m glad they passed it,” he said of the law legalizing recreational marijuana. “There are a lot of people here with undiagnosed anxiety. It will help as soon as they get used to it.”
At Tuesday’s regulatory hearing, officials from the state’s newly established Cannabis Control Division heard warnings about the dangers of overuse and redundancy of agricultural water supplies.
“A lot of these regulations will only perpetuate the illegal market,” said Christina Caffari, chief legal officer at Ultra Health, a leading producer and distributor of medical cannabis. “Do they allow legal entry to compete effectively?”
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