April 16, 2021 -- New Mexico Gov. Lujan Grisham has signed legislation legalizing recreational marijuana use for adults, saying the new law will provide an economic boost to the state and reduce harm inflicted on minorities by unevenly enforced drug laws.
“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,” the Democratic governor said in a news release. “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.”
The state joins a growing trend. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws says that seven states have moved to legalize adult-use marijuana possession and sales since November. New York and Virginia did so in the last few weeks.
Starting June 29, people in New Mexico age 21 and older will be allowed to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana and start growing marijuana at home. Cannabis sales can start April 1, 2022, at state-licensed dispensaries.
A separate piece of legislation authorizes the expungement of old marijuana convictions that would no longer be considered violations of state law. That change could affect tens of thousands of people in New Mexico and result in the release of some people currently incarcerated, the news release said.
Sales of recreational marijuana could amount to $318 million in the first year and create more than 11,000 new jobs over several years, said Kelly O’Donnell, an independent economist cited in the news release. A tax on marijuana sales could add $20 million to the state’s general fund in the full fiscal year, the release said.
State Republicans criticized the move.
“Recreational marijuana is hardly a pressing issue for a state that’s become an embarrassment in education, economic growth, and opportunity,” state GOP Chairman Steve Pearce said in a statement. “Recreational marijuana will lead to even more crime, underage use, and impaired driving. The Governor has a pipe dream of saving the state’s finances by hoping to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars from marijuana revenues, but it’s unclear just how much money will end up in state coffers.”