For New Mexico cannabis advocates crossing their fingers and praying for legalization, the legislation session has just become an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Last week four competing marijuana legalization bills were introduced by lawmakers who were determined to see some kind of action happen this year. To make matters seem even more promising, the bills have come from both Democrat legislators and Republicans.
All four of the bills are called the Cannabis Regulation Act, and each one would allow adults over the age of 21 to possess up to two ounces of dried marijuana or 16 grams of extract—just to keep us on our toes and paying attention.
The first bill to be introduced was SB 13, by Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-Albuquerque). The bill was reportedly influenced by recommendations from the New Mexico Cannabis Chamber of Commerce.
The bill would institute a 21 percent tax rate for recreational cannabis, with the revenue being split three ways between the state, counties and municipalities. It also calls for the formation of a Cannabis Regulatory Office in the state’s Regulation and Licensing Department. The agency would be tasked with overseeing the recreational marijuana program only.
The bill would not allow private citizens to grow marijuana on their property for personal use without a medical production license. It would penalize those caught with three plants or less with a $500 fine, and those with more would receive a fourth-degree felony charge. This stipulation (and everything else) was also included in the identical HB 17, introduced by Rep. Tara L. Lujan (D-Santa Fe).
Sen. Cliff Pirtle (R-Roswell) introduced SB 288. This bill calls for a recreational cannabis tax rate between 13 and 15 percent. It would give 4 percent of the tax revenue to cities and counties, and the rest would go to the state. Under the proposed bill, dispensaries would have to be at least one mile apart and the state would have to create the Cannabis Control Commission to oversee the program. This bill specifically states that it would not restrict employers’ ability to enforce a drug-free workplace.
Rep. Javier Martínez (D-Albuquerque) and Rep. Andrea Romero (D-Santa Fe) co-sponsored HB 12. Unlike its competitors, it allows for the production of up to six cannabis plants on private property, as long as they are meant for personal use. It also seeks to expunge the records of people accused of low-level cannabis crimes two years following a conviction, or immediately after arrest if no conviction ever took place. Those convicted of a cannabis crime that would no longer be an offense would have their cases reopened with the possibility of seeing them dismissed.
This bill appears to be influenced by the Drug Policy Alliance of New Mexico. The advocacy group’s spokesperson, Emily Kaltenbach, told the Santa Fe New Mexican that Martínez’ bill includes the “comprehensive social justice and equity provisions that are necessary to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs.” The group has long advocated for making equity and social justice at the forefront of legalization legislation.
All four bills are quite similar. Each has the same possession limits and makes provisions for the creation of a special regulatory entity to oversee the market. While many will find minor faults in each of them, the fact is that all of them look better than previous attempts.
The buffet is open. Dig in.
Federal Bill Could Free Hemp and CBD
A bipartisan congressional bill was introduced last week that would allow companies to market and sell hemp and hemp-derived CBD as dietary supplements.
Companies selling CBD products derived from hemp have so far been operating in a gray legal zone thanks to a Food and Drug Administration ban on the compound. Although hemp was legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD consumables have remained illegal due to regulations that keep companies from selling the active ingredients found in pharmaceuticals as over-the-counter supplements. The FDA-approved drug Epidiolex uses CBD as its main active ingredient, making everything CBD-related off-limits under the rule.
But Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Morgan Griffith (R-VA) have introduced legislation that would override the rule and allow companies to sell CBD as a dietary supplement. It would require the FDA to immediately set up a regulatory framework that would protect consumers.
A version of the same bill was rejected last year.
SBA Nominee Vows to Investigate Relief Funding
President Joe Biden’s U.S. nominee to lead the Small Business Administration, Isabel Guzman, said she would investigate why cannabis companies have been cut off from federal aid.
During a Senate hearing last week, Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-N.V.) asked Guzman, “Will you work with our office to commit to consider providing legally operating cannabis small businesses equal access to SBA resources—loans, counseling, mentoring and training?”
Guzman responded, “I commit to further understanding those rules and regulations and seeing how we can partner with your office to serve all the small businesses who are in need.”
According to Marijuana Moment, SBA officials confirmed last year that legal cannabis businesses are ineligible for federal disaster relief loans that were offered to other businesses as part of COVID-19 relief efforts. The agency also barred groups who work with cannabis companies peripherally from gaining access to relief funds.
In a letter to Senate leadership last year, Sens. Rosen, Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and others wrote:
“Workers at state-legal cannabis small businesses are no different from workers at any other small business—they show up to work every day, perform their duties, and most importantly, work to provide for their families.”