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New Mexico Is Set to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

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New Mexico was set to become the 16th state to legalize recreational marijuana after the Legislature passed a bill on Wednesday, joining a national movement to rethink antidrug laws that are increasingly seen as impediments to racial justice and the economy.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, said she would sign the bill, which would also expunge the criminal records of people who possessed marijuana for personal use. She said in a statement that workers, entrepreneurs and the government would benefit from the new industry, creating jobs and tax revenue.

“And those who have been harmed by this country’s failed war on drugs, disproportionately communities of color, will benefit from our state’s smart, fair and equitable new approach to past low-level convictions,” she said.

The bill passed on the same day that New York State legalized recreational marijuana. Lawmakers in both states said they were motivated to produce a legal, tax-revenue-generating industry that formerly operated underground, and to end arrests for low-level offenses.

Under the New Mexico law, people over 21 would be permitted to have up to two ounces of marijuana, and individuals could have six plants at home, or up to 12 per household. Sales would begin no later than April 2022 and be taxed at 12 percent, eventually rising to 18 percent, plus gross receipts taxes.

The industry will be regulated by the state and produce an estimated $20 million in revenue for the state in 2023, plus $10 million for local governments, according to a fiscal analysis cited by The Albuquerque Journal.

New Mexico’s measure is part of a growing consensus in the United States in favor of marijuana decriminalization, with 91 percent of Americans in 2019 supporting legal medical or recreational use, according to the Pew Research Center. Voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota opted to legalize recreational marijuana in November, while Mississippi and South Dakota became the 34th and 35th states to allow medical marijuana.

The New Mexico bill passed over Republican objections, but not all were opposed to legalization; some just clashed over the details, including how the industry would be taxed, licensed and regulated.

Supporters, including Emily Kaltenbach, senior director for resident states and New Mexico for the Drug Policy Alliance, hailed the passage of the law.

“Today’s passage of the cannabis legalization and expungement package will ensure equitable opportunities for farmers and other small businesses, and long overdue justice — including automatic expungement — for those with past cannabis arrests or convictions,” she said in a statement.

About 100 prisoners will have their sentences reconsidered under the new law, according to The Associated Press.


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