New Mexico Becomes 17th U.S. State to Legalize Recreational Cannabis

2.3 min readPublished On: April 12th, 2021By

SANTA FE – New Mexico has become the 17th state to legalize recreational cannabis after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation today, joining a national movement to decriminalize cannabis.  Cannabis laws are increasingly seen as impediments to racial justice and a good source of local state revenues.

New Mexico’s lawmakers passing of their bill had come the same day that New York State legalized recreational cannabis. 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.  New Mexico’s projected tax revenues amount to $20 million by 2023, plus $10 million for local governments, according to a fiscal analysis cited by The Albuquerque Journal.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed the bill into law. The bill would also expunge the criminal records of people who possessed cannabis 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.

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.

An almost universal, 91% 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 cannabis in November, while Mississippi and South Dakota became the 34th and 35th states to allow medical cannabis.

The New Mexico bill passed over Republican objections.  Emily Kaltenbach, senior director for resident states and New Mexico for the Drug Policy Alliance, hailed the passage of the law

“This is a really important part of repairing the harm of cannabis prohibition,” Emily Kaltenbach, with the Drug Policy Alliance.

Kaltenback (image above) said low income communities, young people, and People of Color are disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs and will benefit from the new law the most.

“We don’t want people having that record hanging over them for the rest of their lives because we know that having a cannabis arrest or incarceration or conviction can be traumatic to an individual and their families when it comes to housing and job employment. The list goes on,” she said in a statement.

The law makes New Mexico the 16th state in the Union to permit recreational use.

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