A 140-page bill is before the state House in New Mexico, outlining proposed regulations and taxes for a legalized marijuana industry. The bill proposes recreational use be legalized for adults age 21 and over.

Medical marijuana is legal in New Mexico, but House Bill 356 would legalize recreational use as well. The bill is sponsored by five Democrats, including Rep. Antonio Maestas, who has been vocal regarding the failures of prohibition and the current awakening countrywide to the reality of that failure.

The bill, which passed a committee vote of 5-2 in front of the House Health and Human Services Committee, has strict regulations protecting employees who are part of the medical marijuana program in a work setting — although it does make exceptions for safety-sensitive situations. Meanwhile, the bill would allow licensed businesses to keep a percentage of their stock dedicated to sales for the medical marijuana program participants.

It also ensures that packaging will not be targeted toward youth in the state, while allowing adults to possess up to two ounces of cannabis and 16 grams of marijuana extracts. Six plants will be permitted as far as cultivation for personal use in the state is concerned. Also, revenue will be put toward job placement, impaired driving prevention, educational programs, and treatment services for substance abuse.

The revenue expected from the recreational marijuana industry is in the $56 million range — based mainly on a 9% proposed tax. Cities and counties in the state will be permitted to opt out of commercial sales of marijuana, but they also have the option to impose an additional 3% tax over the state tax should they so choose. Meanwhile, criminal records for those with marijuana-related offenses will be expunged per the bill in its current state of proposal.

However, changes are still an option, since Rep. Maestas and his co-sponsors are clear that they are more than willing to adjust the bill to address raised concerns as they become apparent.

If the bill passes both the House and Senate, it has a good chance of being signed by current Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, considering the Democratic governor ran on a pro-legalization platform to gain the seat. Gov. Grisham used her State of the State speech in January to announce she is advocating for opioid addiction to be added to the list of qualifying conditions for the medical cannabis program in New Mexico as well.

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