Once again New Mexico has shown its lack of punctuality. Despite nearly a decade of debate, lawmakers are still having trouble passing a legalization bill that has support from the majority of voters.
Last week, as the 60-day legislative session neared a close, legislators decided to postpone a floor debate on HB 12—Cannabis Regulation Act, which would legalize recreational cannabis for adults over 21. This followed intense debates in committee as lawmakers attempted to hammer out a compromise between HB 12 and a competing legalization bill, SB 288.
Following hours of discussion, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 5 to 4 in favor of passing the bill on to the Senate floor. The vote was reached in the wee hours—after 1am—on Thursday morning. A number of big changes were made to the bill.
One amendment would impose a plant limit on producers for the first three years of the program. Plant limits have been especially controversial this time around, as some producers say the limits are arbitrary and unscientific, while advocates say they keep larger producers from operating monopolies. The new limits would be calculated based on the average of what other states with legal cannabis allow. Another change that should help limit companies from becoming too bloated and cutting off small businesses from the market is the barring of license stacking. Another new amendment would bar producers from also owning marijuana testing facilities to discourage conflicts of interest.
But none of it seemed to matter as the clock kept ticking toward a noon Saturday deadline with no one willing to debate it on the Senate floor. Even if it had passed there, it still would have had to return to the House for concurrence before being sent to the Governor’s desk. It seemed impossible. Cannabis advocates gnashed their teeth and pulled out their hair. It was just another year down the drain as New Mexico slides into economic ruin.
But lo, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham brought a ray of hope into the conversation with the announcement that if the bill didn’t see passage, it would get its own special legislative session later in the year. According to the Associated Press, Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Meyers Sackett said, “There are a lot of priorities left to be heard and only so many hours left. The governor is prepared to call a special session to get cannabis done and done right. It’s important enough and we’re close enough that the governor firmly believes it will be worth an extra effort.”
So once again we are left dangling on a thread of hope, holding our breath and waiting for our lawmakers to do the right thing. Waiting on legislators is starting to feel like a favorite New Mexico pastime.
Biden: Enemy of Weed?
As time moves on and the Biden administration shows us what it’s all about, the president’s backward view of cannabis is finally becoming more apparent.
Until recently, cannabis advocates were convinced that President Joe Biden was secretly more progressive than he let on. This was in spite of his voluminous history as an anti-pot, tough-on-crime politician and the repeated warnings of those (like your fair author) who kept saying that canonizing a classically conservative establishment flunkie out of fear that former president Donald Trump might operate a second ineffective term in office countered by Democratic lawmakers was foolish and short-sighted.
But here we are. And according to sources inside the White House, between bombings in the Middle East, the Biden administration has been busy firing and disciplining employees who have admitted to using cannabis in the past. Why? Progress, presumably.
The Daily Beast reports that “dozens” of White House staffers have been suspended, asked to resign or placed in a remote work program after admitting they’d tried cannabis in the past on a background check. Some of the staffers had even used cannabis exclusively in a state where it is legal, according to the report.
The White House denied the amount of staffers fired but admitted that they’d been fired for using cannabis. A White House spokesperson made the following statement: “The White House’s policy will maintain the absolute highest standards for service in government that the president expects from his administration, while acknowledging the reality that state and local marijuana laws have changed significantly across the country in recent years. This decision was made following intensive consultation with career security officials and will effectively protect our national security while modernizing policies to ensure that talented and otherwise well-qualified applicants with limited marijuana use will not be barred from serving the American people.”
Advocates are criticizing the move, since the administration said in February that it would be granting waivers to some staff who had used cannabis in the past. “Nothing was ever explained,” claimed an anonymous White House staffer who allegedly spoke to The Daily Beast. “The policies were never explained, the threshold for what was excusable and what was inexcusable was never explained.”
One explanation for the sudden, unexplained reversal might be the practical need of gaining a security clearance. Currently, every intelligence agency in America will block clearance to a cannabis user. The only thing is: The president has final say on who can and can’t get clearance, and he can override any agency decision on the matter—meaning Biden is the one standing in the way of his own administration’s stated policy. If it weren’t so gross, it would be funny.