New Mexico has legalized recreational marijuana. By doing so, they’ve joined 17 other states and the state of Colombia in legalizing the use of recreational marijuana. On April 12, 2021, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the bill for this cannabis legalization. Not long before this, Virginia also passed a bill to legalize recreational marijuana. Gov. Lujan-Grisham also signed a second bill that allows for the expungement of certain cannabis-related crimes. The governor has supported the marijuana reform as a way to create jobs and create more state revenue.
The bill will become effective June 29, 2021. Meaning New Mexican residents will be able to enjoy cannabis by summer. However, retail sales of cannabis will begin by early 2022. The current target date is April 1, 2022.
Gov. Lujan-Grisham believes that these two bills are the first steps in correcting the past wrongs against cannabis stigma and the failed war on drugs. She also emphasizes the cannabis industry’s ability to transform New Mexico’s economic future for the better. New Mexico State Representative Javier Martinez is also in support of this significant step towards cannabis legalization. He states that this will strengthen their economy, as well as curb the illicit market.
The Cannabis Regulation Act
This act authorizes adults 21 and older to possess cannabis. Specifically, more than two ounces of cannabis, 16 grams of a cannabis extract, and 800 milligrams of edible cannabis. An individual may keep up to six mature cannabis plants in their home for personal use. But, they cannot keep more than 12 total mature plants per household. The plants must also be out of public view and secure from children. Additionally, an individual cannot sell or barter the marijuana grown at home.
While in public, an adult may possess up to two ounces of marijuana. It must be smoked, vaporized, or ingested in a designated “cannabis consumption area”. Those who violate this public use restriction will face a fine of up to $50 per violation.
There are employer drug and alcohol rules permitted under the Act. It allows employers to implement and maintain certain fundamental drug-free workplace rules. This is to ensure the safety of their employees.
The Act allows employers to prohibit workplace cannabis impairment and/or possession. Employers can take necessary employment action against an employee. Secondly, the Act does not interfere with an employer’s ability to maintain rules and policies in compliance with federal law. This is important for companies or organizations that fear the loss of federal contracts or funding. Lastly, “Zero Tolerance” policies can be maintained under specific circumstances. Employers may continue to adopt and implement “zero tolerance” policies regarding the use of cannabis products. Such policies allow employers to discipline or even terminate the employment of an employee. The basis for such action is a positive drug test. The tests must indicate any amount of THC.
Expungement of Criminal Records
The Expungement of Certain Criminal Records Act also passed in New Mexico. This act allows expungement of arrest and conviction records relating to cannabis offenses that become legal with cannabis legalization. Individuals can begin the expungement process once the Cannabis Regulation Act takes effect. Additionally, it also affects cases where the offense would have been lesser if the Act had been in effect at the time.
Moreover, under the review of the New Mexico attorney general, all public records will automatically be expunged. They will be expunged two years after the date of conviction. Or, the date of arrest if there was no conviction. If the records include multiple charges, only the cannabis-related charges will be expunged. Additionally, alleged offenders who are or were under the age of 18 may also have their public records expunged. Their records will be retained until two years or when they turn 18 years, whichever is earlier.
Effects on the Colorado/New Mexico border
New Mexico legalizing recreational marijuana may pose a threat to Colorado’s border town dispensaries. Back when Colorado legalized the retail sale of marijuana in 2012, many entrepreneurs saw an opportunity. They realized if they set up shop in small towns along the state’s borders, they could attract outside customers. Customers would come from Kansas, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Wyoming, and New Mexico. They were states where marijuana remained illegal but had individuals that wanted to buy.
The city of Trinidad, a 4-hour drive from New Mexico, has many cannabis shops. There are about 25 cannabis shops in the area, according to potguide.com. The shops earned an estimated $71 million in cannabis sales last year.
Now with the legalization of recreational marijuana in New Mexico, these border town dispensaries will be tested. They’ll have an increasing competition once cannabis retail sales in New Mexico begin in 2022.