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New Mexico Legislature Continues to Push Forward Cannabis Legalization Bill that Centers Social Justice

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House Bill 12 Passes Senate Tax, Business, and Transportation Committee

March 9, 2021 – Santa Fe, NM – With the Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee Voting in Favor of Cannabis Legalization, Emily Kaltenbach, Senior Director for Resident States and New Mexico for the Drug Policy Alliance, released the following statement:

“House Bill 12, the only cannabis legislation centered in social justice—putting New Mexico families before big business—emerged as a favored bill in the Senate, rightly indicating the state’s priorities for legalization. Of the amendments made to the bill in the Tax Committee was one that increases the plant count for microbusiness licenses, which will inevitably lead to a more equitable and diverse marketplace and encourage local small businesses involvement in the industry.

With only one more committee to vote on the measure before the full Senate takes up the bill, cannabis legalization in New Mexico has a clear path to the Governor’s desk.

And though SB 288—another legalization bill that does not include any social justice and equity provisions or public health protections, and continues to perpetuate the criminalization of New Mexicans—was also passed out of committee, New Mexicans have made it abundantly clear that, while they are excited to make [cannabis] legalization a reality in the state, repairing the damage done by the drug war is non-negotiable.”

As New Mexico considers the end of cannabis prohibition, any legislation that moves forward in New Mexico should be comprehensive and contain these key provisions:

  1.       Equity in the new marketplace
  • Allow individuals with prior cannabis convictions to work in the new cannabis industry and to apply and receive a license.
  • Create a microbusiness license that would be given priority to be licensed first, creating an opportunity for small New Mexico businesses to enter the marketplace while requiring other licensing fees to be scaled on the size of the business.
  • Require the state to create a social and economic plan to encourage diversity in licensing.
  • Authorize the Executive to enter into intergovernmental agreements with Indian Nations, Tribes, and Pueblos regarding the implementation and compliance in connection with legalization.
  1.     Protections for the use of cannabis
  • Prohibit police from stopping and searching an individual or vehicle based on the smell of cannabis alone.
  • No denial of public benefits or health care based on cannabis use or a positive cannabis drug test.
  • Prohibit prior cannabis convictions to bar anyone from licensure or employment of any kind.
  • Conduct allowed under the new law shall not in itself constitute grounds for intervention, removal or placement into state custody of a child; denial of custody or visitation; and, presumption of neglect of child endangerment.
  1.       Community Reinvestment
  • Invest a significant portion of revenue generated by cannabis sales back into communities most harmed by unfair enforcement of cannabis laws through the creation of a Community Reinvestment Fund.
  • One-time allocation from cannabis sales to fund an upgrade to the State’s criminal justice data system to allow for automatic expungement and resentencing of past cannabis convictions.
  1.     Protecting Medical Cannabis Patients
  • Invest a portion of cannabis revenue into a subsidy fund to support low-income medical cannabis patients.
  • Eliminate GRT on medical cannabis sales.
  1.     Protecting the Public’s Health
  • Fund a public education campaign that educates the community about the potential harms of use and educates adults on responsible use.
  • Limit advertising and marketing and include packaging restrictions to the greatest extent possible to restrict exposure to minors.
  1.     Reducing Criminalization
  • Automatically expunging records of people with past cannabis convictions and resentencing and releasing people who are currently incarcerated, on probation, parole, or under supervision for cannabis convictions.
  • Create a reasonable penalty structure for remaining and new penalties. Create civil fines instead of criminal penalties where appropriate.
  • Allow personal cultivation (home grow) of a small number of plants for recreational use.


In December, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement (MORE) Act that frames cannabis reform as a racial justice and equity mandate.  The MORE Act was the first piece of comprehensive cannabis reform legislation that decriminalizes [cannabis]—and the only one centered in reparative justice—to pass either chamber of Congress.  Arizona and New Jersey passed legalization proposals this past year that center equity and racial justice as well, with New York considering similar legislation in their current session.

Nearly three out of four New Mexicans approve of cannabis legalization with provisions in place to ensure tax revenue is reinvested back into communities, including 94% of Democrats, 93% of Independents and 46% of Republicans.


About Drug Policy Alliance

The Drug Policy Alliance envisions a just society in which the use and regulation of drugs are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights, in which people are no longer punished for what they put into their own bodies, and in which the fears, prejudices and punitive prohibitions of today are no more. Our mission is to advance those policies and attitudes that best reduce the harms of both drug use and drug prohibition, and to promote the autonomy of individuals over their minds and bodies. Learn more at

Matt Sutton 212-613-8026

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