By Emily Ledger
New Mexico has become the latest state in the USA to legalise the recreational use of cannabis for adults over the age of 21. The governor of the state, Michelle Lujan Grisham, yesterday signed two bills into law that would legalise cannabis and expunge some past cannabis convictions.
The bills were earlier approved by lawmakers on the 31st March, during a special session. The first bill, House Bill 2, will legalise and regulate the production, sales, and possession of cannabis. The second bill, Senate Bill 2, is set to enact the automatic review and expungement of criminal convictions for low-level cannabis offences such as possession.
In a statement following the signing of the bills, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, said:
This legislation is a major, major step forward for our state. Legalized adult-use cannabis is going to change the way we think about New Mexico for the better – our workforce, our economy, our future.
She continued, “we’re going to start righting past wrongs of this country’s failed war on drugs. And we’re going to break new ground in an industry that may well transform New Mexico’s economic future for the better.”
The move means that New Mexico has officially become the 17th state in the country to legalise the recreational use of cannabis. New York also legalised the possession, use, and licensed production of cannabis last month, whereas Virginia lawmakers approved legalisation in February.
In a statement, the Executive Director at NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) said: “The American people are demanding an end to prohibitionist policies that have wreaked havoc on communities of colour, squandered countless millions in taxpayer dollars, and wasted limited judicial and law enforcement resources on criminalizing otherwise law-abiding individuals for possession of a product that is objectively less harmful than alcohol or tobacco.”
As with all states who opt for a legal cannabis market, it will take some time for commercial sales to launch in New Mexico. According to reports, legal sales will begin no later than the 1st April 2022.
Taxation on legal cannabis is estimated to raise millions of dollars for New Mexico with initial rates being set at 12% at first, eventually rising to 18%.
Cannabis reforms are continuing to sweep across the USA, with a large number of states moving to legalise or decriminalise either the medical or recreational use of the drug. Furthermore, a bill to introduce federal decriminalisation is believed to be imminent, as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has made clear that he intends to introduce a bill to the Senate soon.