New Mexico isn’t wasting any time setting up its adult-use marijuana market, with regulators launching a website to provide information about the state’s impending...

New Mexico isn’t wasting any time setting up its adult-use marijuana market, with regulators launching a website to provide information about the state’s impending new cannabis policy before the governor has even signed a legalization bill into law.

Lawmakers sent legislation to establish a recreational marijuana to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) last week during a special session that she had convened. Under the proposal, retail sales wouldn’t start until April 2022, but the state Regulation and Licensing Department is getting a head start providing information to consumers and businesses.

The new website features a timeline for when the Cannabis Control Division (CCD) would have to create an advisory board, when business licenses would begin to be issued and when the retail market is expected to launch. It also provides an overview of the fees associated with various license types. Finally, there’s a page for “important terms” that define components of the legalization legislation.

“With the passage of HB2 in the 2021 special session, enactment of the Cannabis Regulation Act (CRA) is effective June 29, 2021, upon the signature of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham,” the website states.

Even though the governor hasn’t signed the bill yet, she has pledged to do so shortly after legislative staffers properly format it and send it to her desk.

Lujan Grisham has been an outspoken advocate for ending cannabis prohibition and standing up a regulated market, which she says could help boost the state’s economy at a critical time. When the legislature failed to pass a legalization bill during the regular session because members missed a legislative deadline, she promptly announced a special session to tackle the reform.

The new cannabis website’s launch comes shortly after New York created its own site for information on cannabis policy after Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a legalization bill last week.

“This is a significant victory for New Mexico,” Lujan Grisham said after lawmakers finalized her state’s bill. “Workers will benefit from the opportunity to build careers in this new economy. Entrepreneurs will benefit from the opportunity to create lucrative new enterprises. The state and local governments will benefit from the additional revenue. Consumers will benefit from the standardization and regulation that comes with a bona fide industry.”

The legislature separately passed a bill last week providing for expungements of prior marijuana records.

The two bills were originally part of a single piece of legislation, HB 12, that passed the House during the regular session but stalled on the Senate floor. Heading into the special session, proponents separated the criminal justice aspects in a bid to win support from Republicans and moderate Democrats who argued that the proposal as a whole was too broad.

Here are some of the main provisions in the new legalization bill:

-Adults 21 and older could purchase and possess up to two ounces of cannabis, 16 grams of cannabis concentrates and 800 milligrams of infused edibles. All products would be tested by licensed laboratories for contamination and potency.

-Home cultivation of up to six mature cannabis plants would be allowed for personal use, provided the plants are out of public sight and secured from children. Households would be limited to 12 total plants. Marijuana grown at home could not be sold or bartered.

-Legal retail sales wouldn’t begin for another year or so, with a target date of April 1, 2022 or earlier. Final license rules would be due from the state by January 1, 2022, with licenses themselves issued no later than April 1.

-Advertising cannabis to people under 21 would be prohibited, with the use of cartoon characters or other imagery likely to appeal to children forbidden. Advertisements would also be barred from billboards or other public media within 300 feet of a school, daycare center or church. All products would need to carry a state-approved warning label.

-There is no limit on the number of business licensees that could be granted under the program, or the number of facilities a licensee could open, although regulators could stop issuing new licenses if an advisory committee determines that “market equilibrium is deficient.”

-Small cannabis microbusinesses, which could grow up to 200 plants, would be able to grow, process and sell cannabis products all under a single license. The bill’s backers have said the separate license type will allow wider access to the new industry for entrepreneurs without access to significant capital.

-Cannabis purchases will include a 12 percent excise tax on top of the state’s regular 8 percent sales tax. Beginning in 2025, the excise rate would climb by 1 percent each year until it reached 18 percent in 2030. Medical marijuana products, available only to patients and caretakers, would be exempt from the tax.

-In an effort to ensure medical patients can still access medicine after the adult-use market opens, the bill allows the state to force licensed cannabis producers to reserve up to 10 percent of their products for patients in the event of a shortage or grow more plants to be used in medical products.

-Local governments could not ban cannabis businesses entirely, as some other states have allowed. Municipalities could, however, use their local zoning authority to limit the number of retailers or their distance from schools, daycares or other cannabis businesses.

-Tribal governments could participate in the state’s legal cannabis industry under legal agreements contemplated under the bill.

-With certain social justice provisions expected to be repackaged into a separate bill, the legalization measure retains only some of HB 12’s original equity language, primarily focused on enacting procedures meant to encourage communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs to participate in the new industry.

-The new industry would be overseen by a newly created Cannabis Control Division, part of the state Regulation and Licensing Department. Medical marijuana would also be regulated by that division, although the Department of Health would control the patient registry.

-By September of this year, the state would establish a cannabis regulatory advisory committee to advise the Cannabis Control Division. The committee would need to include various experts and stakeholders, such as the chief public defender, local law enforcement, a cannabis policy advocate, an organized labor representative, a medical cannabis patient, a tribal nation or pueblo, various scientists, an expert in cannabis regulation, an environmental expert, a water expert and a cannabis industry professional, among others.

-The bill as amended now includes language that would allow medical marijuana patients who are registered in other states to participates in in other states to access, a proposal that failed to pass during the regular session.

Before last year’s failed effort, New Mexico’s House in 2019 approved a legalization bill that included provisions to put marijuana sales mostly in state-run stores, but that measure died in the Senate. Later that year, Lujan Grisham created a working group to study cannabis legalization and issue recommendations.

In May of last year, the governor signaled she was considering actively campaigning against lawmakers who blocked her legalization bill in 2020. She also said that she’d be open to letting voters decide on the policy change via a ballot referendum if lawmakers couldn’t send a legalization bill to her desk.

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