City leaders in Las Cruces, New Mexico voted to back efforts to legalize marijuana in the state, putting their support behind a bill now making its way through the legislature. The Las Cruces City Council passed a non-binding resolution supporting the bill by a vote of 6 to 1 at its meeting on Monday night.
The bill, SB 115, would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in New Mexico for adults 21 and older. The measure would also establish a regulatory framework for the cannabis industry and levy taxes on recreational marijuana. The state would impose an excise tax of 9% on cannabis products and county and municipal governments would be permitted to add taxes of up to 4% more.
Purchases of medical marijuana would be tax-free and low-income patients would be able to purchase their medicine with a state subsidy. The legislation would require recreational marijuana dispensaries to serve medicinal cannabis patients.
New Mexico’s marijuana legalization bid also includes several social equity provisions, including the automatic expungement of past cannabis convictions. Those with cannabis convictions would also be permitted to work in the state’s newly legal industry, which could create 11,000 jobs for the state.
While recently outlining her priorities for the new legislative session, the governor said that the legalization of cannabis would present New Mexico with a tremendous economic opportunity as she gave a nod to those still not sold on the idea.
“The legislature has the opportunity to pass the largest job-creation program in New Mexico in a decade,” Governor Lujan Grisham said. “Skeptics have been right to preach study and patience. I agree with their caution – and that’s why we haven’t rushed into this issue. But if we are clear-eyed about the risks, we have to be clear-eyed about the opportunity.”
Social Equity Provisions Spur Council’s Approval
Las Cruces Councilor Gabriel Vasquez said he voted for the resolution backing SB 115 as a matter of social justice.
“It’s really our young people of color who are often and disproportionately targeted in New Mexico,” said Vasquez.
Fellow Councilor Johana Bencomo said that she supports the bill because it will return the dignity to people of color who are victims of the disparity in the enforcement of the nation’s drug laws.
“To me at the end of the day … this is a racial equity issue, which is why I’m supporting it thoroughly,” Bencomo said.
The lone vote against the Las Cruces resolution was cast by Mayor Ken Miyagishima, who said the state’s cannabis legalization bill is the “most irresponsible” piece of legislation that he has seen.
“The money this generates, the additional problems it’s going to generate, it’s just not something I personally want to be supportive of,” Miyagishima said.
A cannabis legalization working group that is advising Grisham has estimated that legal pot would generate $318 million in sales and raise $55 million in state and local taxes the first year.