Republican Senator Grassley Statement On Draft Marijuana Legislation

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued the following statement regarding the recently announced draft legislation titled Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act.

“This new bill puts the cart before the horse. It’s important that we have robust research and fully understand the good and the bad of marijuana use, especially in young people and over the long term.
My research-focused bill with Senator Feinstein has passed the Senate before, and ought to be the first step before we adopt such sweeping reforms. Substance aside, if my colleagues are planning to bring this bill up, legislative changes of this size need to move through regular order in committee.”

New Mexico Governor Lujan Grisham Hails Legalization of Adult-Use Cannabis

Possession, growth now legal in New Mexico; adult-use sales to follow by April

NEW MEXICO:   Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Regulation and Licensing Department Superintendent Linda Trujillo on Tuesday heralded the official effective date of the Cannabis Regulation Act, which now provides for the personal possession and growth of cannabis in New Mexico, and officially establishes the Cannabis Control Division within RLD.

“This is a landmark day, a huge step forward both for social justice and economic development in our state,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said. “We are proactively stopping the disproportionate criminalization of people of color for cannabis possession, and we are building a new industry in which all New Mexicans can participate – and that will bring millions of dollars to our local communities and our state.”

The Cannabis Regulation Act, signed into law by the governor after she called a special legislative session to secure its final approval earlier this year, legalized adult-use cannabis sales in New Mexico no later than April 1, 2022. However, several provisions of the law go into effect on June 29, 2021.

Specifically, as of June 29, people in New Mexico can legally possess up to two ounces of cannabis, 16 grams of cannabis extract and 800 milligrams of edible cannabis outside their private residence. Individuals can also grow up to six cannabis plants per person at their home, with a household limit of 12 plants.

Moving forward, the newly created Cannabis Control Division will oversee both medical and adult-use cannabis in New Mexico. The division is already working with the public to draft rules for the production of adult-use cannabis and has advised local governments of their obligations under the law.

“We are excited at the Cannabis Control Division to play such a key role in bringing adult-use cannabis sales to fruition in New Mexico,” said Superintendent Trujillo. “The economic impact of adult-use sales will be significant and we are committed to ensuring a timely, open process that allows New Mexico entrepreneurs and businesses the opportunity to enter this new industry.”

Connecticut Governor Lamont Signs Bill Legalizing and Safely Regulating Adult-Use Cannabis

CONNECTICUT:  Governor Ned Lamont this afternoon signed into law legislation that legalizes and safely regulates the adult-use of cannabis in Connecticut. The legislation contains comprehensive reforms that address many areas, including equity, criminal justice, public health, and public safety.

“For decades, the war on cannabis caused injustices and created disparities while doing little to protect public health and safety,” Governor Lamont said. “The law that I signed today begins to right some of those wrongs by creating a comprehensive framework for a regulated market that prioritizes public health, public safety, criminal justice, and equity. It will help eliminate the dangerous, unregulated market and support a new and equitable sector of our economy that will create jobs. The states surrounding us already, or soon will, have legal adult-use markets. By allowing adults to possess cannabis, regulating its sale and content, training police officers in the latest techniques of detecting and preventing impaired driving, and expunging the criminal records of people with certain cannabis crimes, we’re not only effectively modernizing our laws and addressing inequities, we’re keeping Connecticut economically competitive. This legislation directs significant new funding to prevention and recovery services, which will be used to help prevent cannabis use by minors and to promote safe, healthy use of cannabis by those of legal age.

“This measure is comprehensive, protects our children and the most vulnerable in our communities, and will be viewed as a national model for regulating adult-use cannabis. By signing this into law today, we are helping our state move beyond this terrible period of incarceration and injustice.” 

The legislation Governor Lamont signed today is Senate Bill 1201. A proposal to legalize adult-use cannabis was initially put forward by Governor Lamont to the General Assembly earlier this year as Senate Bill 888. He also proposed similar legislation in February 2020 as Senate Bill 16.

Key components of the new law include:

  • Possession: Possession of cannabis among adults age 21 and over will be legal in Connecticut beginning July 1, 2021. Adults cannot have more than 1.5 ounces of cannabis on their person, and no more than 5 ounces in their homes or locked in their car truck or glove box.
  • Retail sales: Retail sales of cannabis aim to begin in Connecticut by the end of 2022. The sale, manufacture, and cultivation of cannabis (aside from home grow) requires a license from the state. Products that contain delta-8-THC, delta-9-THC, or delta-10-THC are considered cannabis and may only be sold by licensed retailers. Individuals who are not licensed by the state may gift cannabis to others but may not sell it. Individuals may not gift cannabis to another individual who has “paid” or “donated” for another product.
  • Homegrown: Patients who are participating in Connecticut’s medical marijuana program will be permitted to cultivate up to six cannabis plants (three mature, three immature) indoors within their homes beginning October 1, 2021. All adults age 21 and over will be permitted to grow a similar number of plants indoors within their homes beginning July 1, 2023. The law includes requirements to keep the plants secure from anyone else. Home grow of up to six cannabis plants is defelonized beginning July 1, 2021, and instead will result in infractions.
  • Erases prior convictions: Certain cannabis-related convictions that occurred between January 1, 2000 and October 1, 2015 will be automatically erased. Those seeking to erase cannabis-related convictions outside of that period will require petitioning.
  • Equity and investments: To start the necessary work of repairing the damage caused by decades of failed cannabis criminalization policies, the law implements equitable marketplace requirements under which at least half of all initial licenses are reserved for social equity applicants, targeting those communities that have been most negatively impacted by the so-called war on drugs. The Social Equity Council, which is created by this legislation, will launch a programs and supports for social equity applicants in the cannabis market.
  • Tax structure: The law enacts a tax rate structure on the retail sale of cannabis that includes a new source of revenue for municipalities. This includes (1) a 3% municipal sales tax, which will be directed to the town or city where the retail sale occurred; (2) the 6.35% state sales tax; and (3) a tax based on the THC content of the product, which will be 2.75 cents per milligram of THC for cannabis edibles; 0.625 cents per milligram of THC for cannabis flower; and 0.9 cents per milligram of THC for all other product types. This means that Connecticut generally will have about a 4% lower tax rate than New York and about the same as Massachusetts.
  • Revenue to support economic opportunities in targeted communities: Portions of the revenue obtained from retail sales of cannabis will be directed to communities that have been most negatively impacted by the war on drugs through the creation of the Social Equity and Innovation Fund. Funding from this account will be appropriated for use by the Social Equity Council to provide business capital, technical assistance for business start-ups and operations, workforce education, and community investments. These investments will not be limited to the cannabis market.
  • Revenue to support substance misuse prevention and recovery services: Portions of the revenue obtained from retail sales of cannabis will be directed to support substance misuse prevention, treatment, and recovery services through the creation of the Prevention and Recovery Services Fund. Connecticut’s health agencies, including the Department of Public Health, Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and Department of Children and Families will launch new programs and initiatives regarding prevention, treatment, and recovery in regard to cannabis.
  • Preventing underage use: This legislation adapts the state’s strong framework regarding preventing access to alcohol by minors in the context of cannabis. For example, it will be a Class A misdemeanor to sell or provide cannabis to a person under 21 years old. In addition, an individual allowing someone under 21 years old to loiter at a cannabis store will receive a $1,000 fine on the first offense with subsequent offenses as a Class B misdemeanor. It will be a Class D misdemeanor for a person under the age of 21 to lie about their age or use a fake ID in an attempt to buy cannabis. Delivery services will be required to use online ID and age verification.
  • Enforcement of safe driving: This law significantly strengthens Connecticut’s impaired driving statutes by requiring police to be trained in Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) and allows for Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) evaluations to result in license suspensions. This means that drivers who are impaired on any substance, whether cannabis or otherwise, will be more quickly taken off the roads.
  • Advertising: This law implements strong standards for advertising that exceed those for the tobacco and alcohol industries. All cannabis-related advertising will be banned on television, radio, internet, print, and billboards unless the advertiser has reliable evidence that more than 90% of the audience reached by the advertising is at least 21 years of age or older. Advertising of cannabis is restricted within 500 feet of a school. The advertising restrictions apply to all cannabis advertising, whether or not the advertiser is a state licensee.
  • Safe products: This legislation imposes strong requirements for product safety. Products will have to be lab tested and will have strict packaging and labeling standards. Edible cannabis products are limited to 5 milligrams of THC per serving, and most other products are subject to a potency cap. Products will be in child-safe packaging, and product types that appeal to children are banned.
  • Municipalities and zoning: Local officials will play an important role in the implementation of cannabis legalization. For example, local officials can control the number and locations of cannabis retailers through zoning. Municipalities can also determine where smoked or vaped cannabis can be consumed (e.g. in city parks or beaches, or on sidewalks or streets).
  • Employment: This legislation allows employers to continue to enforce drug-free workplaces, and respects the need for employers to maintain workplace safety and to remain in compliance with federal laws and contracts. As such, employers in certain industries, such as manufacturing and healthcare, are considered “exempt” from the employment provisions of this law. The law allows employers to take adverse actions against employees who are impaired at work. The law says that nonexempt employers may not prohibit the off-work use of cannabis or take adverse action against an employee or a potential employee for a positive THC test unless such employer has adopted employment policies stipulating as such. Generally, an employer may not take adverse action against an employee or potential employee for use of cannabis prior to applying for or working at such employer.
  • Medical marijuana program: The law protects Connecticut’s nation-leading medical marijuana program in many ways. For example, producers and dispensaries that currently operate in the medical marijuana program may expand or convert their licenses for adult-use cannabis, but they must prioritize serving the medical program. Medical marijuana users will soon be able to purchase medical marijuana from any dispensary rather than simply the one to which they are assigned.
  • State parks and beaches: Cannabis use is prohibited in state parks, state beaches, and on state waters.

 

Connecticut Governor Lamont Statement on Final Passage of Legislation Legalizing Adult-Use Cannabis

CONNECTICUT:  Governor Ned Lamont released the following statement regarding final approval in the Connecticut General Assembly of legislation legalizing adult-use cannabis in Connecticut:

“It’s fitting that the bill legalizing the adult use of cannabis and addressing the injustices caused by the war of drugs received final passage today, on the 50-year anniversary of President Nixon declaring the war. The war on cannabis, which was at its core a war on people in Black and Brown communities, not only caused injustices and increased disparities in our state, it did little to protect public health and safety. That’s why I introduced a bill and worked hard with our partners in the legislature and other stakeholders to create a comprehensive framework for a securely regulated market that prioritizes public health, public safety, social justice, and equity. It will help eliminate the dangerous unregulated market and support a new, growing sector of our economy which will create jobs.

“The states surrounding us already, or soon will, have legal adult-use markets. By allowing adults to possess cannabis, regulating its sale and content, training police officers in the latest techniques of detecting and preventing impaired driving, and expunging the criminal records of people with certain cannabis crimes, we’re not only effectively modernizing our laws and addressing inequities, we’re keeping Connecticut economically competitive with our neighboring states. Connecticut residents will benefit from the portion of cannabis revenues that will be dedicated to prevention and recovery services. This measure is comprehensive, protects our children and the most vulnerable in our communities, and will be viewed as a national model for regulating the adult-use cannabis marketplace.

“I look forward to signing the bill and moving beyond this terrible period of incarceration and injustice.”

The legislation is Senate Bill 1201. Governor Lamont will sign the bill when it is transmitted to his office.

 

Here’s What’s Happening In South Dakota Legal Cannabis 2021

By Daniel Asarch

South Dakota has always had a special place in my heart.  I have family and friends that make it a 2nd home.  In addition to running my hemp company, Happy Hemp Pharm, I have spent considerable energy as a cannabis pharmacist and activist working helping to establish the South Dakota cannabis industry.   I have great ambitions and hope they come to fruition.  Like South Dakota, I feel that being an underdog pushes people to their greatness and allows their impactful soul to shine thru.  Cannabis is not a gateway drug it’s an exit drug. 

Will 2021 be the year of cannabis? That is the million dollar question.  So far it’s shaping up to be that way.  The cannabis industry seems to be giving the technology industry a run for its money.  Picking up momentum from last year’s 2020 election we saw forms of legalization occur in Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and my home state of South Dakota.  So far in 2021, 4 more states including Georgia, New Mexico, New Jersey, and New York have kept the momentum going with a few more potential states on the horizon. 

Out of all these ‘legal states,’ one state stands out as the underdog: South Dakota.  South Dakota has tried to legalize medical marijuana three times, beginning in 2016.  The first 2016 medical marijuana initiative was defeated.  In 2018, the revised medical marijuana initiative did not even make the ballot, failing to meet the requisite signatures.  Finally in 2o20, the third time was a charm! Not only did the medical marijuana IM 26 initiative pass but recreational Amendment A passed as well.  South Dakota was the first state in history to have the opportunity to vote on medical and recreational marijuana on the same ballot.  

    

However, this historic moment did not go over well with sitting Governor Kristi Noem.  Kristi Noem has been a long time opponent against cannabis in any of its legal forms.   As soon as she could, she indirectly had Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom and South Dakota Highway Patrol Col. Rick Miller file a lawsuit on behalf of the state.  The lawsuit that was brought forward argues that it violates the state’s one subject rule and the amendments and revisions article of the South Dakota constitution.  This lawsuit did not go over well with the citizens of South Dakota.  Not only was Governor Noem using taxpayer money to participate in the lawsuit but also in doing so pretty much gave the people of South Dakota the middle finger.  The people of South Dakota know what they voted for on the ballot.  Both medical and recreational cannabis received more votes separately and together than Governor Kristi Noem when she was elected.  Cannabis is a bipartisan issue not a partisan one.

   Besides enacting a lawsuit against Amendment A, Governor Noem tried to dismantle IM 26.   IM 26 was written concisely with the patient in mind by Melissa Mentele.  Melissa Mentele, who has a background in nursing as well as a chronic debilitating disorder, has been working on getting medical cannabis passed in South Dakota for the last 6 years.  She started this fight in 2015 by creating New Approach South Dakota (NASD), a  cannabis patient advocacy group.  With the help of NASD, volunteers over the years have been educating the public and collecting signatures for the various ballot measures.  To help the ballot measures succeed last year another group joined the fight: South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws. 

After successfully helping both measures pass, both groups took up the challenge of continuing the fight against Governor Kristi Noem and most of the South Dakota legislative representatives.  In February, Amendment A was handed a lower circuit court loss by a Gov. Noem appointed judge.  However, it was appealed and sent up to the South Dakota Supreme Court for a final ruling at a later time.  During the same month in legislative session IM 26 appeared to be on the chopping block.   Noem and some of the SD legislature representatives wanted to delay and dismantle IM 26.  With the help of fellow South Dakotans all over the state, many emails and phone calls were made to legislators expressing their discontent of their votes not being respected.  In the end , the legislature decided to uphold the people’s vote on IM 26.  Now that the legislative issue of IM 26 was laid to rest, focus could be turned back over to the Amendment A lawsuit.  Running low on court funds, a great group of individuals created and championed a 2 day charity concert, Freedom we’re on it.   Tons of local musicians, advocates, and comedians participated along with local businesses supporting with donations for an auction.  South Dakotans care about one another and have a lot of pride for their state.

Medical marijuana starts July 1st barring no other surprises.  If the judgement for Amendment A gets upheld, then South Dakota could see a recreational market here real soon, but technically the state has until next year to implement it.  If Amendment A fails, then the challenge to get it on the ballot for 2022 begins.  The people of South Dakota and the rest of the US are anxiously waiting the decision. 

AFC Gamma Provides Justice Cannabis Co. With $22 Million Senior Secured Credit Facility to Fund its New Jersey Expansion

FLORIDA:  AFC Gamma, Inc. announced it has provided a credit facility of $22 million to Justice Cannabis Co., a Chicago-based multi-state operator with licenses in eight states. The credit facility is designed to provide Justice Cannabis Co. with the capital necessary to purchase and complete the build out of its 72,000 square foot cultivation and processing facility, along with the buildout of a dispensary, both in Ewing, New Jersey.

“We are pleased to support Justice Cannabis Co. as it continues to expand its operations in New Jersey,” said Leonard M. Tannenbaum, AFC’s Chief Executive Officer. “With adult use marijuana recently legalized in the state, we believe New Jersey will have favorable supply and demand dynamics for years to come and we are excited to be working with Justice Cannabis Co. in order to fully capitalize on this growing market.”

Jon Loevy, Justice Cannabis Co.’s Founder, added, “As we continue building on our presence in this highly attractive cannabis market, we are very excited to have the support and partnership of AFC. AFC has proven investment expertise in the cannabis space and provided us with an institutionally minded financing solution that supports our specific needs. We look forward to continuing to work with AFC to achieve our objectives.”

AFC will hold the entire $22 million of the credit facility, which consists of a first-lien term loan. The loan is secured by first-lien mortgages on Justice Cannabis Co.’s wholly owned real estate properties in New Jersey and other commercial-security interests. AFC Management, LLC served as Lead Arranger and Administrative Agent for the transaction.

New Jersey Cannabis Snapshot
New Jersey legalized the use of medical marijuana in 2010, with sales launching in 2019. Adult use marijuana was legalized in 2021. By 2024, the state expects to achieve sales of between $850 million and $950 million, with significant opportunities to exceed this range, depending on licensing details which will be developed over time.

The Happy Munkey Says Farewell To New York Prohibition With 4/20 Celebration

By Stu Zakim

There are some dates that transformed New York: In 1858, Central Park opened; The Holland Tunnel’s opening in 1927; The Beatles playing at Shea Stadium in 1965; and the opening of Studio 54 in 1977.  The latest date that will surely find its way onto that list is April 20, 2021 – the day NYC’s legendary speakeasy, The Happy Munkey, hosted it’s “Farewell to Prohibition” celebration.

Happy Munkey founders Vladimir Bautista and Ramon Reyes are celebrities in the Cannabis community.  When they opened in mid 2017 at an “underground” location, they created a space that offered their invitation only guests a safe, comfortable atmosphere while hanging with very cool people all bonding over Cannabis; black, white, straight, gay, it didn’t matter as Vlad and Ramon often say, “It’s about the culture.” On any given night, you could share a joint with a NFL, NBA or MLB player, a hip hop or rap star, an actor or a famous singer, all there to share their love of Cannabis.

After having to close due to the COVID virus, Munkey fans from all over the world were left with no place to get together.  Sure, we had Zoom calls and more recently, Clubhouse chats, but nothing could compare to the in-person experience.  That all changed after New York State legalized Cannabis on April 1. With the success of people being vaccinated, Vlad and Ramon and David Hernandez decided what better way to celebrate this moment in time than doing what they do best.  And, to take it to another level, no more “underground” location; in typical Munkey style, they wanted to make a statement now that Cannabis was legal and they sure did – Bobby Van’s Steakhouse directly opposite the NY Stock Exchange building.  

What an evening.  The restaurant was COVID safe; tables were at least 6 feet apart, masks were required when not consuming or drinking and bottles of hand sanitizer on each table.  They turned a steakhouse into The Munkey – DJ, people mingling with each other, consuming responsibly, in this case, not sharing, and everywhere you looked was either an old friend or leaders in the weed space: Leo Bridgewater, Joy Beckerman, journalist Steve Bloom (who discovered the 420 phenomenon while a High Times editor), Curved Papers’ Michael O’Malley, Arnaud Dumas De Rauly and Sasha Aksenov of The Blinc Group, Fab Five Freddy, Phoenix Nutraceuticals Ruben Lindo and other notables were there, all rocking out and smoking through the party. 

Looking back on my Cannabis consumption through the years in New York City, I must agree with the cliche, you always remember your first, in this case, my first legal pot party!  What a rush and thanks to the Happy Munkey for all they have done to take the culture to the next level.  And, the best is yet to come.

Choctaw Nation Tribal Council Holds Special Session to Amend Public Health and Safety Code

OKLAHOMA:The Choctaw Nation Tribal Council held a Special Session on April 20, 2021, and voted to amend its Public Health and Safety Code regarding medical marijuana. The amendment will be automatically repealed on Nov. 13, 2021, and other legislation will be adopted. The amendment passed by an 11-1 vote.

Following the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruling in the Sizemore case, applying the McGirt decision to the Choctaw Nation reservation, state-issued medical marijuana cards or business licenses were not recognized by the Choctaw Nation laws. Without an amendment, Native Americans in possession of a valid state medical marijuana license, within the Choctaw Nation reservation, could have been arrested and charged for marijuana-related offenses in tribal court. In November, Tribal Council will pass a new code covering medicinal marijuana or an extension of this temporary measure, otherwise the permitted use of medicinal marijuana within the Choctaw Reservation will expire.

In discussion of the amendment, Tribal Council indicated that their intent is to research this issue further and propose better rules and regulations concerning medical marijuana for Native Americans within the Choctaw Nation reservation that minimize misuse of medical marijuana.

For more information on the Choctaw Nation Tribal Council, including the full text of the measures passed in the session, please visit https://www.choctawnation.com/government/tribal-council/council-meetings-and-bills.

Congressman Joyce Leads Bipartisan Effort to Allow VA Doctors to Recommend Medical Cannabis to Veterans

Joins Rep. Lee, Senator Schatz in introducing Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act of 2021

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) joined his fellow Co-Chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) in introducing the Veterans Medical Marijuana Safe Harbor Act of 2021. Senator Brian Schatz (HI) has introduced the bill in the Senate.

This bipartisan, bicameral legislation would allow doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to discuss, recommend and prescribe medical marijuana to veterans in states that have established medical marijuana programs. Currently, VA doctors are prohibited from doing so as the federal government classifies cannabis as a Schedule I substance. According to a 2017 American Legion survey more than 90% of veteran households support marijuana research and 82% want to see medical cannabis designated as a federally legal treatment option.

“There is a growing body of evidence about the beneficial uses of medical cannabis as treatment for PTSD and chronic pain, two terrible conditions that plague many of our veterans,” said Joyce. “If a state has made it legal, like Ohio has, the federal government should not be preventing a VA doctor from recommending medical cannabis if they believe that treatment is right for their patient. As the son of a World War II veteran who was wounded on the battlefield, I’ve seen firsthand the many challenges our nation’s heroes face when they return home. I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this important bill and will continue to do everything in my power to ensure we are providing our veterans with the care they need to overcome the wounds of war.”

The legislation would also create a temporary, five-year safe harbor protection for veterans who use medical marijuana and their doctors. Additionally, the bill would direct the VA to research the effects of medical marijuana on veterans in pain, as well as the relationship between medical marijuana programs and a potential reduction in opioid abuse among veterans.

In a recent study, researchers found that those who suffer from PTSD who used cannabis saw greater reductions in their PTSD symptoms and were 2.57 times more likely to recover from PTSD during the study than those who were not using cannabis. Furthermore, a 2016 study at the Minnesota Department of Health found that 58% of patients on other pain medications were able to reduce their use of those medications when they started taking medical cannabis. Of the patients taking opioid medications, more than 62% were able to reduce or eliminate opioid usage after 6 months.

According to the VA, nearly 20% of the 2.7 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will experience either PTSD or depression while more than 50% of older veterans receiving care at the VA are living with some form of chronic pain. Often times, people with PTSD experience depression, panic attacks, severe anxiety, or a substance use problem, putting them at a higher risk for suicide. Tragically, the VA’s most recent annual report shows that nearly 18 veterans take their own life every day.

Organizations that support this legislation include: Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), VoteVets, Minority Veterans of America, Veterans Cannabis Coalition, Veterans Cannabis Project, National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), NORML, National Cannabis Roundtable, U.S. Pain Foundation, Drug Policy Alliance, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Veteran’s Initiative 22, Arizona Dispensary Association, California Cannabis Industry Association, and Hawaii Cannabis Industry Association.

New Mexico Gov. Lujan Grisham Legalizes Adult-Use Cannabis

NEW MEXICO: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Monday formally enacted adult-use cannabis legalization in the state of New Mexico, signing into law an historic measure approved by the state Legislature after the governor called them into a special session for that purpose late last month.

“The legalization of adult-use cannabis paves the way for the creation of a new economic driver in our state with the promise of creating thousands of good paying jobs for years to come,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. “We are going to increase consumer safety by creating a bona fide industry. 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.”

New jobs, new revenue

The sales of adult-use recreational cannabis could amount to $318 million in the first year, creating over several years what could be more than 11,000 new jobs, according Dr. Kelly O’Donnell, independent economist and public finance expert. Preliminary estimates are that the excise tax will raise at least $20 million for the general fund in the first full fiscal year, with significant growth in subsequent years. Local governments will also benefit from the added revenue.

“As we look to rebound from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, entrepreneurs will benefit from this great opportunity to create lucrative new enterprises, the state and local governments will benefit from the added revenue and, importantly, workers will benefit from the chance to land new types of jobs and build careers,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham.

“Today, New Mexico seized a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to establish a multi-million industry with a framework that’s right for our state and will benefit New Mexicans for generations to come,” said Rep. Javier Martínez. “Not only are we launching a burgeoning industry that will strengthen our economy, create jobs and generate tax dollars, but we are doing so in an equitable way that will curb the illicit market and undo some damage of the failed war on drugs.”

A well regulated industry spurs economic activity, creates revenue for state and local government and protects the public

The governor’s signature today launches an administrative process that will culminate in the launch of commercial sales for adults no later than April 1, 2022. The issuance of licenses to conduct commercial cannabis activity will begin no later than Jan. 1, 2022.

“This is a major new program for the state that will have a positive impact on job growth and the economy, but it does require smart regulation in order to protect the public and entrepreneurs seeking to get into the business,” said Sen. Katy Duhigg. “I’m proud of the work we did to ensure that we are creating a fair and equitable program that has a low barrier to entry. At the same time, proper regulation and oversight will keep our successful medical cannabis program intact and help new businesses grow while keeping consumers safe.”

Gross receipts tax and local taxes apply to the value of the adult-use purchase.

“This is the right model for New Mexico because it creates a local, sustainable and regulated industry while at the same time protecting what’s near and dear to all us, including public health, road safety and the well-being of our youth,” said Superintendent Linda M. Trujillo of the state Regulation and Licensing Department, which will oversee and manage the new industry.

New Mexico becomes the latest state in the U.S. to legalize adult-use cannabis, and is only the fifth state to enact it through its state Legislature.

“The standardization and statewide regulation that comes with a bona fide industry will protect consumers,” said Trujillo. “In addition, local jurisdictions will be able to enact reasonable zoning, land use and other business requirements.”

Protecting public safety, health, consumers and N.M. youth

The legislation creates a Public Health Advisory Board to monitor cannabis use and data pertaining to the health effects of legalizing cannabis. In addition, the Department of Health is required to provide annual reports, including information on youth access, driving and road safety, workplace safety, consumer and product safety and emergency room visits involving cannabis.

“Protections for our children are an essential part of this plan and include strict restrictions of packaging, labeling and advertising, as well as stiff penalties for anyone selling cannabis to persons younger than 21,” said Sen. Linda Lopez.

The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Javier Martinez, Rep. Andrea Romero, Rep. Debbie Armstrong, Sen. Linda Lopez and Sen. Katy Duhigg.

“The legalization of cannabis is ultimately a public health measure. When we regulate the industry, we can control the product quality, protect consumers, and bring down the dangerous illicit market in our state,” said Rep. Debbie Armstrong. “This law includes dozens of necessary safeguards to protect our youth, ensure adequate supply for the medical program, and will bring in additional funds for programs, services, and research to support the health and wellbeing of New Mexicans.”

Expungement of convictions

Surrounded by legislative sponsors and advocates outside the state Capitol, Gov. Lujan Grisham, who has advocated for legalization since taking office, signed legislation that will authorize the expungement old low-level cannabis convictions from the record of what is expected to be tens of thousands of New Mexicans and make possible the potential early release of low-level convicted cannabis offenders who are currently incarcerated.

“Thousands of people, and a disproportionate number of them from communities of color, have been wronged by this country’s failed war on drugs,” said Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino. “We will all benefit from our state’s smart, fair and equitable new approach to past low-level convictions.”

“For decades, our communities of color have been discriminated against for minor cannabis offenses, so we must ensure that those who would not be arrested today do not continue to be incarcerated or held back by criminal records for acts that are no longer crimes,” said Rep. Andrea Romero. “By ensuring equity and social justice in our cannabis legalization, we are saying ‘enough’ to the devastating ‘War on Drugs’ that over-incarcerated and over-penalized thousands of New Mexicans.”

This important social justice measure was sponsored by Sen. Lopez, Sen. Duhigg, Rep. Martinez, Rep. Romero and Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino.

“The signing of the cannabis legalization and expungement package will ensure equitable opportunities for farmers and other small businesses, and long overdue justice – including automatic expungement – for those with past cannabis arrests or convictions,” said Emily Kaltenbach, Senior Director, Resident States and New Mexico, Drug Policy Alliance. “We thank the Governor and our legislative allies for not taking ‘no’ for an answer and stopping at nothing until we were able to get justice for New Mexico communities – particularly Hispanic/Latinx, Black, Native and Indigenous – that have been immensely harmed by cannabis prohibition.”

***

“This legislation is a major, major step forward for our state,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. “Legalized adult-use cannabis is going to change the way we think about New Mexico for the better – our workforce, our economy, our future. We’re ready to break new ground. We’re ready to invest in ourselves and the limitless potential of New Mexicans. And we’re ready to get to work in making this industry a successful one.”

The governor’s signature on the final bills to have reached her desk from the special session caps an incredibly productive spring 2021 legislative season, during which the Legislature and governor delivered a series of significant policy achievements, including many that were either campaign promises and/or longstanding priorities of the governor.

On top of the passage of a constitutional amendment ballot measure that would authorize an additional portion of the state’s Land Grant Permanent Fund for early childhood education, and in addition to long-sought social welfare measures, the Legislature authorized and governor enacted almost $1 billion in direct pandemic relief for individuals and businesses across the state, including $200 million in small business grants, $500 million in small business loans, a tax holiday for hospitality businesses and restaurants, a $600 tax rebate for working families and a sweeping tax overhaul that will amount to a significantly boosted tax rebate for tens of thousands of New Mexico middle-class families.