Justice Delayed for Millions of New Mexicans After Legislature Fails to Pass Cannabis Legalization this Session

Press Release March 20, 2021
Media Contact

Matt Sutton 212-613-8026
[email protected]


Santa Fe, NM – In the waning hours of the regular session, the New Mexico State Legislature failed to pass cannabis legalization. However, Governor Lujan Grisham has indicated that a special session will likely be held in the coming weeks to address legalization.
In response to this, Emily Kaltenbach, Senior Director for Resident States and New Mexico for the Drug Policy Alliance, released the following statement:
“While we are disappointed that New Mexicans will have to wait a little bit longer to reap the benefits and justice cannabis legalization will provide—especially to Hispanic/Latinx, Black, Native and Indigenous communities, who have been disproportionately impacted by prohibition—after the legislature failed to pass House Bill 12 this session, we applaud Governor Lujan Grisham for acknowledging this cannot wait and indicating she will take up legalization in a special session.
And though we are experiencing this unfortunate setback, we are so grateful for the leadership of Representatives Andrea Romero, Deborah Armstrong, and Javier Martinez this session in prioritizing racial justice and equity provisions, public health safeties, and medical cannabis patient protections in their legislation. It is clear why HB 12, out of many other pieces of legislation, was the cannabis legalization bill that made it the farthest this session.”
As New Mexico considers the end of cannabis prohibition, the Drug Policy Alliance believes that any legislation that moves forward in the special session should be comprehensive and contain these key provisions:

  1. Equity in the new marketplace by allowing individuals with prior cannabis convictions to work and be licensed in the new industry and by creating a microbusiness license, creating an opportunity for small New Mexico businesses to enter the marketplace.
  2. Protections for the use of cannabis, including prohibiting police from stopping and searching an individual or vehicle based on the smell of cannabis alone, no denial of public benefits or health care based on cannabis use or a positive cannabis drug test or removing or placement into state custody of a child; denial of custody or visitation; and, presumption of neglect of child endangerment based on the use of cannabis alone.
  3. Reinvesting a portion of revenue generated by cannabis sales back into communities most harmed by unfair enforcement of cannabis laws. 
  4. Protecting Medical Cannabis Patients by investing a portion of cannabis revenue into a subsidy fund to support low-income medical cannabis patients and eliminating GRT on medical cannabis sales.
  5. Allowing personal cultivation (home grow) of a small number of plants for recreational use.

In December, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement (MORE) Act that frames cannabis reform as a racial justice and equity mandate.  The MORE Act was the first piece of comprehensive cannabis reform legislation that decriminalizes marijuana—and the only one centered in reparative justice—to pass either chamber of Congress.  Arizona and New Jersey passed legalization proposals this past year that center equity and racial justice as well, with New York considering similar legislation in their current session.
Nearly three out of four New Mexicans approve of cannabis legalization with provisions in place to ensure tax revenue is reinvested back into communities, including 94% of Democrats, 93% of Independents and 46% of Republicans. 

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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