Senate Bill 115 Gets Tabled

Senate Bill 115, the Cannabis Regulation Act, has failed in the 2020 legislative session. The bill would allow recreational cannabis sales for customers aged 21 and over. It would also decriminalize home cultivation of up to three plants and six seedlings; offenders would be issued a $50 fine instead of jail time. At first, things looked promising. In January, the Senate Public Affairs Committee passed the bill in a 4-3 vote along party lines. On Feb. 12, however, after two hours of debate, the Senate Judiciary Committee tabled the bill in a 6-4 vote.

Although the bill faced opposition by Republicans and some moderate Democrats, Governor Lujan Grisham vocally supported the measure, claiming that legalization would generate thousands of new jobs and that the influx of tax dollars could bolster public programs. One such program would subsidize medical products for low-income patients. Still another would provide job-training and promote entrepreneurship in communities most marred by the war on drugs campaign.

The majority of New Mexicans support legalization, as a recent poll conducted by the Albuquerque Journal indicates. The survey reveals, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the majority of supporters tend to be younger than 50. Even so, 46% of survey participants over 50 support legalization. Age notwithstanding, across all different levels of education, in both urban and rural areas, there is an obvious consensus that the product should be legalized for recreational use. Had the bill passed, New Mexico would have joined Illinois and Vermont as the latest initiates.

The governor responded to the vote to table the bill, stating that legalization is an “inevitability.” She reiterated that the majority of New Mexicans support the measure, because it would allow them to stay and build careers in New Mexico. She also vowed to protect our medical program and the “patients who rely on it for their medicine.” Despite the bill’s failure, the governor’s optimism regarding legalization and support for medical patients is an encouraging sign. 

Chances were always slim that the bill would become a law before the session ends on Feb. 20, due to the short time frame and political partisanship surrounding the issue. One sponsor for the bill, Gerald Ortiz y Pino, has indicated that simply introducing the bill to both the Legislature and the public has been a step in the right direction. The bill has enhanced awareness and educated both proponents and opponents alike. So, although the bill has failed to move through the Senate this year, it has a greater chance of passing next year.