It has been nearly seven months since New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed Senate Bill 406 into law. The bill allowed for medical cannabis in schools and licensed manufacturers to process home-grown medical cannabis.
Now, the governor’s office announced they will introduce legalization legislation during the second session of the 54th Legislature in January 2020.
An assembly of law enforcement officials, industry stakeholders and lawmakers assimilated in June to form the Cannabis Legalization Working Group. The working group scrutinized the benefits and drawbacks of other states’ implementation policies in an effort to ensure New Mexico can successfully regulate underage consumption and ensure safe handling overall, according to the group's website.
On Oct. 16, the working group released a report with recommendations for executing the successful legalization of marijuana.
The first recommendation is to include clear labeling and consistent testing for THC products. The recommendation also includes labels that are easily identifiable and not enticing to children, while also preventing the promotion of health claims.
The second recommendation involves investing in law enforcement programs early on. The third recommendation is creating social equity and economic opportunity by ensuring the new job opportunities generated by marijuana legalization reach disenfranchised communities.
The fourth recommendation is to maintain the medical cannabis program to promote better accessibility for rural communities and lower both producer and patient costs.
The fifth and final recommendation deals with potential legalization impacts on employment, both within cannabis industries and outside of them. Cannabis industry employers are recommended to implement labor peace agreements, and employers must be told in detail if and how to navigate off-duty marijuana usage, among other regulations.
In correspondence with the Daily Lobo, Nora Sackett, press secretary for the governor's office, said, “The governor was pleased that the working group incorporated her priorities for any potential legalization bill into their study, namely: Rigorous protections for the medical program, public safety and workplace concerns, clear labeling and other areas."
City Councilor Pat Davis is leading the working group.
"We know that implemented well, the city could generate about $3 million in new revenue for policing, behavioral health and prevention programs," Davis said. "Estimates say we need 11,000 new jobs to grow the plants, create the products and test, sell and regulate them. Ending the practice of criminalizing cannabis helps thousands avoid the stigma of criminal convictions that prevent access to jobs and education."
Davis added that this new revenue could then be expended in new proposals, such as Lujan Grisham’s free college education plan or doubling the state’s investments in rebuilding behavioral health infrastructure.
Thus far, eleven other states have incorporated marijuana legalization policies into their government.
"Other states thought of creating community reinvestment for those negatively impacted by prohibition," Davis said. "We don't have to, so we're recommending millions in new funding to help low-income and formerly incarcerated offenders."
Furthermore, Davis said investing new funds into police training will ensure that law enforcement will be involved in identifying any individual who abuses the adult-use privilege.
A persistent question has been how medical dispensaries will be affected if marijuana is legalized. Davis discussed his "patients first" model.
"Anyone wanting to sell adult-use products has to reserve enough plants and products for patients first," Davis said. "We also know that access to medicine is expensive, so we propose making medical products tax free and creating a low-income subsidy fund to help patients cover the cost."
Beatrice Nisoli is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BeatriceNisoli