2020 was a banner year for cannabis reform in the US, with four states voting to legalize adult-use and two more greenlighting medical marijuana. And 2021 could even be more historic, now that cannabis activists and weed-friendly politicians are working to bring legal pot to at least ten more states.
Most of this year's adult-use campaigns are taking place on the East Coast, but on the other side of the country, New Mexico is also working to end pot prohibition. Ever since she took office, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has been fighting to bring legal weed to her home state, arguing that it would provide a much-needed boost to the state's economy.
State lawmakers have been working on adult-use legislation for years now, but have yet to make progress. In 2019, the state House passed a bill that would have created a state-run cannabis retail market, but it was shot down in the state Senate. And last year, a second legalization bill advanced out of one Senate committee, but was killed by another committee.
This year, there are at least five different adult-use bills waiting in the wings, but lawmakers are more confident that some sort of compromise can finally be reached. In an unusual twist, the previous years' legalization efforts were shut down by prohibitionist Democratic senators. Several of these lawmakers lost their bids for reelection last fall, though, and are now out of the picture.
“This year I know the legislators have been working very hard, shaping and crafting these bills, and that kind of from-the-ground-up versus the top-down approach that I think is needed for a legislation of this kind,” said state Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth (D) to the Growing Forward podcast. “Again, we just can’t get it into a final committee in a place where it’s not really ready to go.”
Wirth said that he has also informed his fellow lawmakers that any viable adult-use bill would need to “address... fundamental underlying issues” of social justice. The legislature's lower chamber is also working to add social equity provisions to its adult-use bills.
State Rep. Javier Martinez (D), who has sponsored several cannabis reform bills in the past, said that the “biggest change you’ll see in this bill, which is one of the main points of contention last year, was the creation of a number of different funds, earmarks, tax coming in from cannabis,” according to Marijuana Moment.
Governor Lujan Grisham is also continuing her outspoken advocacy for weed reform this year. In a recent interview with KOB-TV, the governor said that she is “still really optimistic about cannabis, which is 12,000 jobs, and you know by the fifth year in operation, the projections are we would make $600 million a year.” Last year, state officials estimated that combined tax revenue from adult-use and medical marijuana sales could bring the state up to $100 million per year.
“I’m hopeful that this is the year to get this done,” said Wirth, according to Marijuana Moment. “I just think the longer we wait, the less of an economic impact it’s going to have, as all of our sister states around us in the country really reach in this direction at pretty high speed.”
Indeed, most of New Mexico's neighbors have already legalized weed, or are about to. Colorado has been selling recreational pot back for years, and Arizona just kicked off adult-use sales last week. And across the border, Mexico is working hard to end cannabis prohibition by this April, a deadline set by the country's highest court.