New Mexico lawmakers reconvene to consider legalizing pot

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico lawmakers are responding to the call of Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to try and forge an agreement on legalizing recreational marijuana in a special legislative session that convenes at noon on Tuesday.

Legalization has won state House approval for three consecutive years but failed to gain full approval, despite support from an array of proponents. Lujan Grisham has hailed the industry’s potential to create jobs and a stable new source of revenue for the state.

Lawmakers are likely to bring forward two bills that provide a regulatory framework for the industry and focus secondly on social justice concerns, such as the expungement of past marijuana convictions and support for communities that have suffered from criminalization of marijuana and aggressive policing.

New Mexico doesn’t allow legislation by ballot initiative, but voters last year ousted hardline opponents of recreational marijuana from the state Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth has vowed to bring legalization to the Senate floor for a vote, but time ran out during the annual 60-day legislative session that ended March 20.

Successful legislation would extend legal recreational cannabis sales across the American Southwest. Virginia and New York are on the cusp of legalizing marijuana through the complex and conflictive legislative process.

New Mexico legislators in the Republican minority are calling the special session an inappropriate public expense in the midst of the pandemic — and an affront to Christians in the midst of Holy Week celebrations that precede Easter.

“The public has been locked out of the Capitol, Democratic leadership has not communicated with us, and I fear the output will be a rushed and problematic cannabis bill with dangerous, unintended consequences,” Sen. Craig Brandt of Rio Rancho said in a statement.

Earlier this year, Brandt helped advance a recreational pot bill from GOP Sen. Cliff Pirtle of Roswell that emphasized low taxes and a simplified oversight.

Disagreements about that bill and several competing proposals from Democrats were on prominent display during the regular legislative session.

Medical marijuana producers are divided over how to proceed amid calls for new opportunity and competition in the market. Many fear unlimited business licenses and wide-open competition would undermine stable retail prices, financial investments and stable employment.