Legislators who want recreational cannabis in New Mexico have just a few days to get a bill to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk before the legislative session ends March 16th. Even if it doesn’t pass, the bill’s arrangement — which establishes a network of cannabis dispensaries owned and operated by the state — could serve as a national model for other states, for better or worse.
It wasn’t always this way. When legislators in the state House first introduced a bill for recreational cannabis in January, state ownership wasn’t part of the plan. There were restrictions on where dispensaries could be located relative to schools and churches, and cities and counties could ban them outright, but it presumed a privately run business model. This is basically how industries have been set up in the nine other states have have legalized recreational sales. (Vermont legalized, but has not yet established a commercial market.)
Less than a month later, the state Senate rolled out its version, which mandated the state operate all cannabis retail operations. Under this framework, the state would license private growers of cannabis and manufacturers of cannabis products. The state’s retail stores would then accept products from manufacturers on consignment for resale, meaning manufacturers would be paid back after the products were sold. The main reason: Concerns over children accessing legal weed.
The House modified its bill to mirror the Senate’s version, and it passed a floor vote last week. Now the only thing standing in the way of a legal cannabis industry with state-run commercial sales in New Mexico is the Senate, where the bill is currently held up in a legislative committee.
The only thing standing in the way of legal cannabis in New Mexico is the state