New Mexico Joins New York and 15 Other States in Legalizing Marijuana

Joe Biden, meanwhile, supports continued national prohibition, maintaining an untenable conflict between state and federal laws.


Yesterday, on the same day that New York became the 16th state to legalize recreational marijuana, legislators in Santa Fe approved a bill that will add New Mexico to that list. The Cannabis Regulation Act passed the state House by a vote of 22–15 and the state Senate by a vote of 38–32 during a special session convened by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who is expected to sign the bill soon.

New Mexico is the fourth state, in addition to New York, Illinois, and Vermont, to legalize marijuana through the legislature. Thirteen other states have approved legalization by ballot initiative, although South Dakota's measure is tied up in the courts.

The New Mexico bill allows adults 21 or older to purchase and possess in public up to two ounces of marijuana, 16 grams of cannabis extract, and "eight hundred milligrams of edible cannabis" (by which it presumably means edibles containing up to 800 milligrams of THC). Residents also can legally transfer those amounts to other adults "without financial consideration." The bill imposes no limits on possession at home.

Marijuana use will be allowed in licensed "cannabis consumption areas." The bill refers specifically to "smoking cannabis," which suggests that other kinds of consumption will be allowed elsewhere.

Adults will be allowed to grow up to six mature and six immature cannabis plants at home. Unlike New York's law, which delays permission for homegrown marijuana until up to 18 months after the first state-licensed retailer opens (which may not happen until late next year), New Mexico's bill allows home cultivation while the state creates a system for licensing and regulating commercial production and distribution.

The bill assigns that task to a newly created Cannabis Control Division of the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department. The division is required to write rules for licensing and regulating recreational marijuana businesses by January 1. That is also the deadline for beginning to process license applications. The division is required to begin allowing retail sales by April 1, 2022.

The retail sale of cannabis products will be taxed at a rate of 12 percent—substantially lower than the THC and sales taxes New York plans to collect. A third of the revenue is earmarked for local governments.

A fiscal impact report from the Legislative Finance Committee notes that "there is no effective date of this bill," so "it is assumed that the effective date is 90 days following adjournment of the Legislature." That implies decriminalization of possession and home cultivation will take effect in June.

Another bill approved by New Mexico legislators yesterday, which Lujan Grisham also is expected to sign, requires automatic expungement of government records related to marijuana offenses that are no longer crimes. Marijuana offenders who have not completed their sentences will be eligible for judicial dismissal and expungement. The bill says expunged records may not be considered in decisions regarding public employment or professional licenses.

Virginia legislators, meanwhile, are gradually moving ahead with plans to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Gov. Ralph Northam yesterday said he would like the state legislature to legalize simple possession by July 1, "nearly three years sooner than previously planned." He also thinks home cultivation of up to four plants should be allowed by that date.* But the deadline for the legislature to enact provisions regarding commercial production and distribution is still January 1, 2024, which means retail sales won't begin anytime soon.

"Virginia will become the 16th state to legalize marijuana," Northam said yesterday. That prediction already has been overtaken by events. Virginia might instead be the 18th state to legalize marijuana (or the 17th, if you don't count South Dakota). That's assuming no other state acts in the meantime.

"New Mexico joins an ever-growing list of states that have realized the failures of marijuana prohibition and the harms it brings to their communities and citizens," says Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "They are the third state so far this year that has approved legalization via the legislative process [counting New Jersey, where the legislature approved a plan in response to a 2020 ballot initiative], and we expect several more will follow suit in a short period of time. The American people are demanding an end to prohibitionist policies that have wreaked havoc on communities of color, squandered countless millions in taxpayer dollars, and wasted limited judicial and law enforcement resources on criminalizing otherwise law-abiding individuals for possession of a product that is objectively less harmful than currently legal alcohol and tobacco."

All of the conduct decriminalized by these state laws, including possession, cultivation, and sales, is still prohibited by the federal Controlled Substances Act. The Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which was approved by the House of Representatives in December but was never considered by the Senate, would have addressed that untenable situation by removing marijuana from the schedules of controlled substances. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D–N.Y.) plans to reintroduce the MORE Act, and yesterday Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) said his chamber will soon consider legislation that would "end the federal prohibition on marijuana."

President Joe Biden, notwithstanding his avowed conversion from draconian drug warrior to enlightened reformer, has shown no inclination to do that. Altieri hopes the continuing collapse of marijuana prohibition at the state level will apply "further pressure on the federal government to finally deschedule marijuana nationally and end this ongoing tension between state and federal policies."

*Update, April 7: The Virginia legislature today approved Gov. Northam's proposed amendments, so residents 21 or older will be allowed to possess and grow marijuana for personal use beginning on July 1. Virginia is the first Southern state to legalize recreational use.

NEXT: Brickbats: April 2021

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  1. My guess is Joe will simply continue Trump’s policy of not harassing states that do legalize weed, while keeping it illegal under federal law. Probably is waiting for stories of teens getting hooked on weed to start coming in, then will bring the hammer down.

    1. I don't think so. He's gonna drag his feet, but I think we will end up with a federal bill for cannabis legalization by the end of Joe's term. This is the prediction that the financial markets are signalling, and I happen to agree. Load up on pink sheet US cannabis companies when their price inevitably dips. They are very volatile, but will explode the second any positive legalization news drops. Right now they are riding pretty high off of the NY news.

      1. Except that more illegal weed (than legal weed) is still grown, sold and smoked in states that have legalized weed.

        1. Only true in a few legal states, mostly east coasters that have restrictive medical systems. West coast and colorado have far more legal weed consumed within the state, for instance.

          Legal weed sales GDP contributions are approaching $2 Billion in Washington state, where they only have 7 million in population. Tax revenues from weed exceed tax revenues from our already highest in the nation liquor taxes. There would need to be quite a lot of illegal weed being smoked per person to exceed the legal figures.

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        2. How can there be illegal weed if weed is legal?

          1. There will always be the black market. I have seen ounces priced at $400 in California and Illinois. People are not going to pay that. Those prices will ensure that the black market exists.
            In Colorado, you can find $100 ounces all day long. Med card holders can get it even cheaper. Even with those prices, people grow. The Black Market guys do not want to see this go national. They cannot grow enough meet out of state demand.

          2. Anyone with a felony cannot get involved in the legal industry.
            Illegals can't grow legally. They are involved in black market activities.
            Illinois wanted $300,000 just for the dispensary application with no guarantee that they would not turn you down and keep the money. There were no minority applications for dispensaries so they are trying to fix that now by granting a few. Until the state starts being reasonable, people will stick to the black market. In Illinois, the tax on an ounce of pot is more than an entire ounce in other states.

      2. "I think we will end up with a federal bill for cannabis legalization by the end of Joe’s term"
        You mean this fall? That's pleasantly optimistic.

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  2. Marijuana legalization is only sound policy advocated and enacted by Democrats during the past decade.

    Sadly, Joe Biden, the drug war hawk who was/is wrong on most policy issues and is owned by China (as they have far more evidence of his family's corrupt business dealings) still opposes legalizing weed.

    1. I guess you've missed the recent spats with the Chinese and Biden's admin? State department just made a visit to Taiwan. There is no way China is happy with Biden. And I see no way in which Biden has benefited China or lobbied on behalf of Chinese interests.

      1. China knows that Biden, unlike Trump, is a wimp who they'll take advantage of. The Chinese would never have repeated (recently in Alaska) the Democrat's false and divisive claims that America is a racist country if Trump were still President.


          As Beijing faced international criticism for its continued crackdown on Uighurs and other minorities in the Xinjiang region over recent days, a Chinese diplomat based in Pakistan responded by highlighting what he called racial segregation in Washington.

          In tweets that began Saturday, the deputy chief of mission at the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad issued condemnations of the United States’ legacy of racism, religious intolerance, gun violence, Internet surveillance, income inequality, the problem of sexual harassment and more.

        2. trump was the wimp. trump told Xi to go ahead and persecute and oppress the Uyghurs in Western China.

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  4. And that would be the Dem base, not so much the dem establishment. They'd be all too happy to keep police unions happy by keeping the demon weed illegal.

    But I'd also say that some Dems were early on against the Iraq War and patriot act; Max Cleland and Dennis Kucinich come to mind. But too few of them to stop the Dem war machine.

    1. That was suppose to be a reply to Bill.

  5. Biden changes his mind all the time. There's no idea which way he'll blow on any issue. The direction is left but always equivocating and dancing around.

    The real problem are the Obama lackeys being directed by the Big O himself, those are the real power brokers. It's Obama's game and he's got his people in place. He shuffled the Clintons off and got rid of the old time democrats - Joe is the prop. Once he's useless the relief pitcher will continue to play Obamas gameplan. The goal is to end the bill of rights and federalize nearly all functions forcing states to take the knee.

    1. I love a good story. More, please!

      This had better not draw my interest, only to get progressively dumber, like House of Cards or Trump's cabinet.

      1. I think a side by side cabinet comparison is in order. They are all same, same. When was the last time anyone in the US said, Man, these people are doing a great job!

        1. "When was the last time anyone in the US said, Man, these people are doing a great job!"

          Certainly not in my lifetime.

          Trump's cabinet was also worse than any other president in my lifetime, I believe. He failed to even get many or most of them through the confirmation process. There was the big dick toilet guy, the ever rotating series of 'acting' this and thats, including the longest period in our history without a secretary of defense. The number of scandals far exceeded any other in my lifetime as well. More so than could possibly be explained by a hostile press alone.

          There was also the whole "Adults in the Room / Resistance" betrayal that should offend Trump supporters as well. The number of former close associates and cabinet members who Trump subsequently went on to denigrate and denounce makes me think Trump was also not a big fan of his cabinet, including his vice president in the end.

    2. Reported

      "The goal is to end the bill of rights"

  6. It's about time but I will not be satisfied until all recreational drugs are 101% legal without consequences!

    1. Good so get out there and fight!

    2. One visit to Amsterdam may change your mind on that.

      1. Didn't change my mind. Yeah, there were junkies everywhere and people trying to sell you cocaine. But it didn't do me any harm. Plenty of non-druggy tourists still go there all the time. They could change their policies if they wanted to (and they have, it's a lot less tolerant of the stuff you describe than they were). And hard drugs are not legal there.

        1. They had to cut it back. It was nasty in the 90s. I walked all over the city, it was dangerous. Legalizing heroin was a disaster for them. I talked to a lot of locals, they were not happy with the situation. When you need "methadone buses", it has gone to far. Every junkie in Europe headed to Amsterdam.

  7. The progress continues. Thank you Reason for your advocacy on drug reform.

    This achievement was possible by changing the conventional wisdom on the drug war one mind at a time. People gradually accepted that prohibition is far worse than drug use. It didn't happen overnight. But it also didn't require violence against the state, or insurrection or threatening judges. In fact all those tactics would have backfired. Keep this in mind the next time there is a setback on your pet issue (e.g. gun control or school closures). That means you have to get back out into the real world (online) and fight. If you refuse and give cowardly excuses for running away, that's fine but you have no excuse to resort to violence. And no one will join your cause if you do.

  8. Schumer (D–N.Y.) said his chamber will soon consider legislation that would "end the federal prohibition on marijuana."

    "Of course, any reasonable person will agree it's obvious reasonable common sense that gun safety be a necessary component of this."

    1. You can't buy a gun if you are "on the weed". Even if you have a medical card. It is complete nonsense.

    2. I had to look that up to make sure it was parody. Well done.

      1. They have it on the gun paperwork. I can't remember exactly, but I remember it saying something like, "if you are addicted to any federally illegal substance" you cannot purchase a firearm. So, drink up Johnny, it will improve your aim!
        It is the very reason that many vets aren't getting med cards.

        1. Yeah, it's unfortunate. Just one of your 3 felonies per day.

  9. As a long time New Mexican and frequent critic of our governor, I have to say this bill is one of the best I've seen. Based on the governor's past performance I would have expected California-level taxes along with brutal regulation. At one time, the legislature was considering a system that would be owned and operated, top to bottom, by the state, the worst idea I've ever heard. I likely won't use cannabis much, but this is a welcome change.

    1. Yeah, I'm glad we finally got there, though I'm disappointed that we waited so long. Seriously, we're so fuckin' poor here, it should have been really obvious after Colorado started making money hand over fist. Setting aside the entire issue of letting people do what they want with their own bodies.

  10. 'President Joe Biden, notwithstanding his avowed conversion from draconian drug warrior to enlightened reformer, has shown no inclination to do that. Altieri hopes the continuing collapse of marijuana prohibition at the state level will apply "further pressure on the federal government to finally deschedule marijuana nationally and end this ongoing tension between state and federal policies."'

    Tobacco & alcohol are the two most deadly & dangerous of ALL drugs, including heroin & other opiates.

    Tobacco drug use results in more drug deaths (~500,000/year in the USA) than the combined total number of drug deaths/year in the USA from the use of ALL other drugs, including alcohol!

    Tobacco & alcohol are physically & psychologically addicting hard drugs that meet the definition in the CSA of being schedule I & II controlled substances.

    Amendment XIV guarantees citizens the Equal Protection of the Law.

    1) tobacco/nicotine, alcohol, coffee, and cannabis MUST be classified & regulated as the schedule I, II, V, and V (not I) controlled substances they are, as defined in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA);
    2) the CSA MUST be repealed and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) MUST be abolished.

    We MUST have the Equal Protection of the Law!

  11. Wow, does that Chinese diplomat project much? Every one of those things is not a “legacy” but rather an active policy of his government.

    How’s this for a start?

    Racism: Tibetans, Uighurs, other non-Han minorities
    Religious persecution: Falun Gong
    Gun violence: government crackdowns in Hong Kong, enforcement of the only recently repealed one child policy, organ harvesting of convicts (none of that could happen if the functionaries had no weapons)
    Sexual harassment: Government appointed substitute “husbands” taking up residence in the homes of married Uighur women whose husbands are in camps
    Surveillance: seriously?? How’s the entire social credit system and constant monitoring of the internet for terms as innocuous “Tianamen Square” or even “Winnie the Pooh” sound for a start?

    1. Sorry. Posted in the wrong thread.

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