SANTA FE — A special session that could lead to New Mexico joining a wave of other states in legalizing, taxing and regulating cannabis got underway Tuesday at the Roundhouse — less than two weeks after lawmakers put the final touches on a 60-day legislative session.
The special session was called by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who said there’s momentum for getting a marijuana legalization bill across the finish line after a previous bill stalled on the Senate floor in the final hours of the just-completed session.
But the special session also represents a political risk of sorts, as the cost of recent special sessions has averaged about $50,000 per day.
Since the 60-day session ended, a small group of lawmakers and the Governor’s Office have been working on crafting a revised package of bills for the special session.
While some details remain unclear, top legislators have said they expect several cannabis-related bills to be introduced — one dealing with the legalization and taxation of cannabis sales, and another dealing with expungement of marijuana-related possession convictions.
While New Mexico lawmakers debate the issue, other states are moving ahead with legalization measures. New York and Virginia are on the verge of becoming the 16th and 17th states to legalize recreational marijuana, respectively.
New Mexico already has a medical cannabis program with more than 100,000 enrolled members. In addition, Lujan Grisham signed into law a 2019 bill that made possession of up to a half-ounce of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a $50 fine.
But backers have argued for years that New Mexico should also legalize cannabis as a way to generate revenue for the state, create jobs and free up law enforcement to focus on other issues.
On the other side of the issue, critics of such proposals, including New Mexico’s Roman Catholic bishops and some business groups, have voiced concerns about the impact of cannabis legalization on children and drug-free workplace policies, among other issues.
And a small group of protesters were gathered outside the Roundhouse on Tuesday to rally against what they described as a profit-driven motivation to cannabis legalization.