New Mexico House Committee Blocks Legalization Bill

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The chances of legalization passing in New Mexico just got cut in half as House Bill 89, which would have legalized marijuana for adult use throughout the state, was brought to an end in the House Business and Industry Committee this week with a 9-1 vote against it. The committee spent hours debating the bill before their vote – after which even 4 Democrats decided to vote against it, saying they aren’t sure it’s the right thing to do for their state right now.

Representative Bill McCamley, who sponsored the bill, fought to have lawmakers realize that legalization is truly just a matter of time and there are a number of benefits to removing prohibition in the state. Things like job creation, much needed tax revenue for the state and the ability to allocate resources in law enforcement to more serious crimes that need to be addressed were all brought up – but the fear of possible repercussions was enough for lawmakers to stop the bill in its tracks.

“This is going to happen, whether it’s this year or 10 years from now,” McCamley said.

House Bill 89 would have made possession, cultivation and the use of cannabis legal for adults 21 and older, creating a regulated system that would have been taxed at 15% – with the option for local governments at the city and county level to levy an additional tax if they chose to. The tax was lower than some states’ overall excise tax on cannabis, which would have been helpful in the initial growth of the industry as the low prices could drive out illegal sales more easily.

“Even a 20 percent total tax is still lower than most of the other states that are doing this,” McCamley said.

In the end, the bill will not make it any further during this 60 day legislative session – due to concerns such as a possible increase of use amongst children (whether accidental or intentional), as well as Representative Debbie Rodella citing the number of homeless she saw on a trip to Colorado and wondering whether or not that is a consequence of legalization.

However, these so called “social ills” have not been definitely connected to legalization. After legalization parents could be more willing to seek professional advice rather than Google after a child accidentally eats their edibles, for example – meaning incidences have not increased, but perhaps people could be more honest about it now. On the other hand, the many benefits have definitely been seen in each of the states to legalize so far.

Now New Mexico has one more chance to legalize marijuana during this session through a very similar bill in the Senate – but even if it makes it out of the Senate there is no guarantee that the House would treat it any differently than they did this one, though we can still hope.

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