FARMINGTON – After the New Mexico legislative session ended with no resolution to the issue of legalizing recreational marijuana, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced she will call the Legislature into special session March 31.
The regular legislative session ended over the weekend with several bills still up for discussion, including House Bill 12.
The bill, sponsored by Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque; Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe; and Deborah A. Armstrong, D-Albuquerque; passed several committees but ultimately didn’t pass in time to be completed and signed during the regular session.
Once a legislative session ends, all bills that failed to go to the governor die. So when the special session begins March 31, new legislation will be introduced.
Lujan Grisham said legalizing cannabis would be one of the best moves for the state to build a “bona fide 21st-century economy.” However, she added she did not think rushing legalizing recreational pot was a good idea – hence the need for a special session.
“Rushing through amendments in the final hours of a session, when there’s a mountain of other very important work to be done, is not the right way to do something of this magnitude,” she said.
Jason Little, owner of New Mexico Alternative Care in Farmington, a medical marijuana dispensary, said calling a special session illustrates how substantial the economic impact of legalizing recreational marijuana could be.
“She is in a tough spot,” he said. “Her state desperately needs the money, but the concerns brought to light for this bill are real.”
Concerns he speaks of include a solid regulation plan.
He cited an issue in Oklahoma in which the state issued “unlimited” licenses, but it is now taking back underperforming licenses. He said, “Thousands of them will lose their license.”
While the original bill is dead, new legislation will be introduced, and it is not expected to vary much from the most recent draft of HB 12.
“This bill is not complete. ... It is close and so much time and hard work went into it, but we need to build on this to develop a better system,” Little said.
Lujan Grisham agrees.
“In short, we are very close,” she said. “And we will finish the job.”
Little said he wants to see the state’s plan on regulation, monitoring and enforcement.
He added, the “labor force needed will be immense.”
Lujan Grisham said legalizing recreational marijuana will be “one of the largest job-creation programs in state history, driving entrepreneurial opportunities statewide for decades to come.”
Little, however, is not so sure the state is up for the task.
“The state has a very difficult time doing that in this very small (medical marijuana) market we currently operate in,” Little said. “They will not be able to regulate and enforce this bill as it is written.”
But Little said by calling a special session, Lujan Grisham is showing she is “willing to do whatever it takes to push her agendas, good or bad.”
“She is strong and wants what she wants,” he said. “That’s a good thing, but sometimes, we leaders need to heed to our support teams’ suggestions and make wiser long-term decisions. Short-term pain for long-term gain in this situation.”