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Clock Is Ticking On Cannabis Legalization

La Tiendita De Motita
La Tiendita De Motita
Cannabis dispensary

  A total of five bills have been introduced in this year's legislative session to legalize recreational cannabis. Despite this being a legislative priority, the New Mexico Senate only began debate on bills on February 27. Meanwhile, House Bill 12 passed the full House and has moved to the Senate.

But the clock is ticking for legalization to happen this year, with the session ending on March 20. KUNM's Megan Kamerick spoke with Andy Lyman with New Mexico Political Report, her co-host on the New Mexico PBS podcast “Growing Forward: Cannabis in New Mexico” to get an update on where things stand and why this push is happening so late in the 60-day session. The Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee was slated to take up debate on Saturday, March 6, on recreational cannabis legalization bills. They have since rescheduled that for Tuesday, March 9.

ANDY LYMAN: House Bill 12 just recently was assigned to its first Senate committee. I think they're really sort of pushing for that one. And I think that one of the signs of that is that the Senate bills just didn't get a hearing until last week. And if one sort of emerges from Saturday's hearing, whichever one comes from that is going to have to go to [the] Judiciary [Committee]. And it's a little tricky, because Senator Joseph Cervantes, who's the chair of Senate Judiciary, is not a fan of legalization. He does have control as far as whether it gets scheduled or not. And that's another time crunch thing where he's probably going to try to get through the Senate bills that are assigned to his committee before the House bills.

And so I think it's going to take a push from leadership and advocates to try to get him to schedule it for its fair day in committee. And I should also clarify, it's sort of a weird, unorthodox process that this House bill went through on the Senate. It hadn't actually technically been assigned to this Senate committee. But the sponsor, Representative Martinez, sort of took it almost for discussion purposes. I think it was sort of in the name of expediency, saying, ‘Here's this bill, you know, get all the public comment out about it. Get all your questions out.’ And I think the hope is that they can, you know, maybe make a vote on Saturday.

KUNM: What are some of the biggest differences in the bills?

LYMAN: The easiest one to talk about is Senator Cliff Pirtles’ bill. He's a Republican, and it's probably not the favorite of some of these advocates. It doesn't allow for very much for personal possession. [It has] a lot of earmarks, money going to law enforcement. Then you've got Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto's bill.

KUNM: It's the one backed by the Cannabis Chamber of Commerce.

LYMAN: That's right. Yeah, no home grows, regulation on production, which in other words saying that it's not unlimited plant counts for producers. And I think those are the two biggest differences in there. It also doesn't have expungement pieces or sort of social justice or restorative justice measures, the sort of comprehensiveness that Representative Martinez’s bill has, and then there's Senator Jacob Candelaria’s bill, which would most likely get lumped into House Bill 12. But his bill also calls for de-felonization of all drugs. It would still make it a crime, but not a felony crime. And, of course, Representative Martinez’s bill, it's very comprehensive, has restorative social justice aspects, sort of gives money back to communities, has the patient subsidy program, you could probably categorize it as probably the more progressive of the bills,

KUNM: What is likely to happen on Tuesday?

LYMAN: Nothing is guaranteed in the session. But I would say almost certainly some sort of proposal will come out of that committee, and then, you know, obviously go on to Senate Judiciary. The other thing that could happen, possibly, is that the committee decides that they want to advance more than one. Of course, that complicates things, because then you have to kind of pick and choose which one you want. And I think the strategy from the democrats is to make this real simple for other members and just give them one option.

KUNM:  But there might be some kind of reconciliation or compromise Saturday to create one comprehensive piece of legislation?

LYMAN: Yeah, what majority Floor Leader [Peter] Wirth would like to see is for them to really do the true compromise, right? They always say compromise means that, you know, everyone gets a little bit of what they want, but not everything of what they want. I would imagine some of the sponsors are just not going to be able to agree offline to incorporate theirs into this other bill. I would imagine the first thing they mention in that hearing will be ‘This is what we decided over the week, this is what we couldn't agree on’ and then they will kind of go from there. So until we hear that conversation, we really don't know which bills may be sort of voluntarily tabled, or which bills the sponsors are gonna say ‘No, I'm gonna keep going with my bill.’

Cannabis Bills In New Mexico Legislature:

HB 12 - Sponsored by Rep. Javier Martinez (D-Bernalillo), Rep. Andrea Romero (D-Santa Fe), Rep. Deborah Armstrong (D-Bernalillo)

HB17 - Sponsored by Rep. Tara Lujan (D-Santa Fe) and Rep. Roger Montoya (D-Colfax, Mora, Rio Arriba & San Miguel)

SB13 - Sponsored by Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-Bernalillo)

SB 288 - Sponsored by Sen. Cliff Pirtle, (R-Chaves, Eddy & Otero-32)

SB363 - Sponsored by Sen. Jacob Candelaria (D-Bernalillo)

Additional Resources:

This story is part of our Your New Mexico Government project, a collaboration between KUNM Radio and New Mexico PBS. Support for public media provided by the Thornburg Foundation.

Megan has been a journalist for 25 years and worked at business weeklies in San Antonio, New Orleans and Albuquerque. She first came to KUNM as a phone volunteer on the pledge drive in 2005. That led to volunteering on Women’s Focus, Weekend Edition and the Global Music Show. She was then hired as Morning Edition host in 2015, then the All Things Considered host in 2018. Megan was hired as News Director in 2021.
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