New Mexico lawmakers are desirous to legalize the rising leisure marijuana problem … Time is operating out

Sen. Gay Kernan

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New Mexico lawmakers looking to legalize marijuana face an impending challenge.

Simply put, time is running out.

This year's 60-day legislature has 20 days left, and Senate legislators have four proposals to consider.

On Saturday, members of the Senate Tax, Economics and Transportation Committee spent nearly four hours discussing these initiatives with the bill sponsors. It was the first time the Senate bills had been heard – an issue raised by Senator Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho.

"This should be a priority and yet we have 20 days left and are hearing it," he said, urging his colleagues on the committee to forward at least one of the four bills to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration of getting the ball in To bring roles.

In the end, the sponsors of the four proposals – House Bill 12 and Senate Bill 13, 288 and 363 – were told to get together for the next week and put only one proposal to the committee vote on March 6th.

The legislature then only has two weeks to get the chosen initiative through the Senate Judiciary Committee and then to the Senate for the final vote.

"Hopefully you can find a compromise," said Sen. Benny Shendo Jr., a Jemez Pueblo Democrat who chairs the committee that sponsors the four bills.

All bills would legalize the use of 2 ounces of recreational cannabis or 16 ounces of cannabis extract for adults 21 and older. All would allow New Mexicans to apply for a license to grow and sell cannabis. And everyone would set up some sort of regulatory board to oversee the program, including issuing and setting fees for licenses.

Legalizing recreational cannabis could create around 11,000 jobs nationwide, according to tax impact reports.

All bills would impose an excise tax, even though those rates are between 6 and 20 percent.

One of the proposals – Senate Law 13 – would impose an as yet undecided upper limit on production. The other three don't. Some lawmakers had problems with the no-cap proposal, saying it was important for the state to regulate this. Others did not express such concerns.

Another initiative – Senate Bill 288 – would allow local jurisdictions to refuse the sale of cannabis if they so choose. This bill also includes language prohibiting cannabis stores from operating within a mile of each other. Some lawmakers have expressed support for these ideas, others have not, or have suggested that counties and cities introduce operating boundaries themselves.

Only one legislature – Senator Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs – raised the issue of water. Most studies say cannabis uses roughly a gallon of water per day per pound.

Kernan said she wanted more information on how much water was needed for cannabis producers.

"This is something we absolutely need to know when trying to decide whether to cap or not," she said.

All legislative efforts would require cannabis growers to receive water rights.

Proponents say, among other things, that cannabis legislation is inevitable and would help limit the black market. Several Senate Republicans, including Brandt, said it was time to press ahead with such initiatives. (No Republicans in the House voted for HB 12, which this Chamber vacated on Friday.)

Supporters also say that legalizing cannabis would bring much-needed revenue to the state. However, initial estimates that legalizing cannabis would generate tax revenues of at least $ 50 million in the first year after it was legalized were both supported by reports on the public finance impact – which brought that number closer to the range of 12 As well tempered by economic analyst Kelly O'Donnell, who told committee members $ 25 million, is more realistic in the first year – bring up to $ 15 million.

However, O’Donnell said that number could exceed $ 100 million in five years.

The bill sponsors vowed to meet to work something out for the next week.

Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, said this was the best option.

Otherwise, he said, "Chances are we'll end up with nothing if we can't get all of the pieces lined up."