Hopes are high that legalization in New Mexico is finally within our grasp. The House Health and Human Services Committee passed HB 12—Cannabis Regulation Act last week, marking the first hurdle cleared by the bill.

The bill is one of five with the same name. This one was notably different, in that it would allow individuals to grow up to six cannabis plants on private property for personal use. It would also open the door for the expungement of low-level criminal cannabis records.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Javier Martínez (D-Albuquerque), who has introduced similar legislation nearly every year that he’s been in office. It addresses the shortcomings of those previous bills that have been criticized by lawmakers in the past, removing the institution of state-operated dispensaries and including provisions for equity.

Not every lawmaker supports the bill though. Rep. Luis Terrazas (R-Silver City) told reporters he was concerned with how the bill would “tie the hands of law enforcement.”

“I am concerned that with so many other issues surrounding legalization,” said Terrazas. “We may be setting this bill up to fail, and ultimately harm our state in the process. Even though I do not agree with this legislation, the legislation we heard today is premature and not ready to become law.”

The bill is now in front of the House Taxation and Revenue Committee.

The Health and Human Services Committee also debated whether to pass the competing HB 17 before deciding to table it.

Lawmakers Pressure Biden on Pardons

Last week 37 members of Congress sent a letter to President Joe Biden, encouraging him to pardon every nonviolent federal cannabis offender in the country.

The letter was published and disseminated extensively on social media by a number of lawmakers looking to drum up public support. It asked the president to use his executive power to release those who have been imprisoned for nonviolent cannabis crimes.

It noted that cannabis law reform is important to voters on both sides of the fence and that Biden could move forward and serve social justice while lawmakers continue to debate legalization.

“During your previous tenure at the White House,” the letter reads, “President Obama understood that decades of harsh and discriminatory federal drug laws unfairly trapped minority individuals and communities in cycles of despair. Your Administration has the power to expand on this legacy and issue a general pardon to all former federal, nonviolent cannabis offenders in the U.S and trigger resentencing for all those who remain federally incarcerated on nonviolent, cannabis-only offenses for activity now legal under state laws.”

The request is particularly poignant because many of the people locked up for federal cannabis offenses are in prison because of tough-on-crime policies that Biden helped establish. The letter appears to imply that Biden could make up for his previous failures and reverse some of the damage that he did in the past by granting historic mass pardons.

“By following the example of President Carter,” the letter continues, “who issued a blanket pardon for those who were convicted of violating the Military Service Act by draft-evasion acts or omissions … you could begin the process of ‘winning the peace’ in the War on Drugs by ending it and working to make whole those who have been harmed.”

NFL Wants CBD Research

The NFL is looking for research into using CBD for players’ pain management.

According to a press release from the league, The NFL-NFL Players Association Pain Management Committee is seeking new ways for players to manage pain without resorting to opioids. “To that end,” said the announcement, “the PMC has issued the following Request for Information (RFI) to researchers studying pain management alternatives to opioids.”

The agency said it was not soliciting study proposals but was looking for information from “investigators who have the current capability to carry out studies aimed at supplementing the NFL-NFLPA Pain Management Committee’s knowledge about pain management and athletic performance in NFL players.”

The league is looking to learn about the potential therapeutic role of non-opioid medications and non-pharmacological interventions including “cannabinoids such as cannabidiol.” It also wants to know about the impact of cannabinoids on athletic performance and the potential therapeutic role of alternative treatments that can be used in conjunction with post-surgical orthopedic pain management.

This is good news for NFL players to be sure, but it’s probably good news for the CBD industry as well. If the league is able to scrape up enough solid evidence of the efficacy of CBD as a pain reliever, the public will be much more likely to accept it than if it was presented by activists and advocates.

The league is hoping to get the data by March 31.

Weed Industry Growing

As COVID restrictions undermined and destroyed most businesses across the nation last year, the cannabis industry has seen nothing but growth.

According to a report from Leafly and Whitney Economics, legal cannabis companies hired around 77,000 new employees last year. The industry reportedly saw a 32 percent increase in the number of workers it supports over 2019—currently about 321,000 jobs. This is in spite of the fact that the nation’s overall economy decreased during that time.

The Hill reports that there are nearly twice as many cannabis workers as there are mining industry workers in America, there are more cannabis workers than those working at medical and diagnostic laboratories, and the legal marijuana sector employs nearly half as many people as the U.S. Postal Service.