HB 12 is well on its way to becoming a reality. Last week it sauntered past its second committee before cartwheeling across the House floor. It’s now on its way to the Senate.

Last Wednesday members of the House Taxation and Revenue Committee voted 8 to 4 in favor of HB 12—Cannabis Regulation Act. The committee is headed by the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Javier Martínez (D-Albuquerque). There was a clear partisan divide, with Republicans voting against and Democrats voting in favor. Since the Senate is currently controlled by Dems, this partisan divide hopefully won’t hurt the bill’s ultimate chance at success. The House’s final vote was less than overwhelming, as we will see.

By Friday the House was already looking at the bill. Rep. Randal Crowder (R-Clovis) unsuccessfully tried to squeeze in an amendment that would have given local governments the choice to opt out of allowing cannabis businesses to open in their areas. (The problem with allowing municipalities to opt out being that it encourages illegal activity in those areas and creates criminal sinkholes.) Thankfully, the move was blocked by Crowder’s colleagues.

HB 12 met more resistance than some of us were hoping to see. It passed on a 39 to 31 vote. Democrats Anthony Allison (D-Fruitland), Harry Garcia (D-Grants), Doreen Wanda Johnson (D-Church Rock), Derrick Lente (D-Sandia Pueblo), Patricia Lundstrom (D-Gallup) and Candie Sweetser (D-Deming) were the only representatives who voted against party lines on the issue.

The bill would make it legal for individuals over 21 to possess up to two ounces of cannabis. Under the bill, individuals would also be allowed to grow up to six marijuana plants—a great departure from the other four legalization bills that are being considered, none of which allow for personal cultivation. It would also institute a statewide 8 percent excise tax on recreational cannabis sales and allow cities and counties to add another 4 percent tax in addition.

Lawmakers recently removed requirements to provide for both a community reinvestment fund and a low-income patient subsidy program using marijuana tax revenue. The funds would still be created, but there would be no mandate to guarantee money for the funds. The bill was also altered to change the proposed beginning date of legal sales from Oct. 1 this year to Jan. 1 of next year.

Of five competing legalization bills, this one is a favorite among advocates because it will expunge criminal cannabis records and also allow for personal private marijuana cultivation.

HB 12 is now on its way to the Senate.

Haaland Defends Cannabis Comments

U.S. Rep. for New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District Deb Haaland faced opposition to her interior secretary nomination by President Joe Biden while at her confirmation hearing last week. Attackers specifically targeted her history with cannabis in New Mexico.

One point of contention originated from statements Haaland made in 2018 about using tax revenue from cannabis sales to fund education programs. Back then, as she was campaigning for her congressional seat, she called for an end to the oil and gas industry in New Mexico and suggested replacing it with recreational cannabis.

“In 2018 you campaigned on eliminating oil and gas production in New Mexico. and you were specifically asked how you would make up for the loss of oil and gas royalties, which the state uses to fund public schools. And your answer was you would vote to legalize cannabis,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) during Halland’s hearing. “And then you said, ‘If we legalize cannabis, and we have a new funding stream for our education system, that will help tremendously.’

“Do you still believe that states should replace oil and gas royalties used for public education with taxes on the sale of marijuana? Is that your position?”

Haaland didn’t back down. “Well, I think the point of that, ranking member, was to say that we should diversify our funding streams for education, and not just rely on one,” she said.

Barrasso continued: “So is selling marijuana among what the Biden administration calls ‘better choices’ that the Biden administration has promised to give displaced oil and gas workers? Is that the better choice: Marijuana?”

“Ranking member, I honestly don’t know what President Biden’s stance is on cannabis, currently,” she answered.

“But we know what your stance is on replacing the revenue from the energy jobs—the jobs that power our economy and the energy that powers our country,” Barrasso said. “And your preference is to turn to drugs.”

Haaland is one of three Native American women ever to be elected to Congress. If she’s confirmed as U.S. secretary of the interior, she will be the first Native Cabinet chief.

Legal Weed Lowers Workers Comp Claims

According to a new study, legalizing recreational cannabis lowers the number of worker’s compensation claims filed.

Funded by the Rand corporation, the study was recently published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. It found that adult workers between 42 and 60 years old claim up to 20 percent less in workers’ compensation benefits in states where recreational cannabis has been legalized. It was also associated with an overall decline in the rate of non-fatal work injuries.

The study focused on middle-aged Americans, because they are more likely to have medical conditions that advocates claim can be treated with medical cannabis. Study co-author Rahi Abouk from William Paterson University told reporters that there could be fewer worker’s compensation claims in areas where cannabis is legal due to its use for pain management.