After a three-hour debate on Thursday evening, the National House of Representatives with a small margin – 36-34 – approved a measure that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in New Mexico.
According to the proposal, residents of 21 years or older would be allowed to buy, own and use cannabis. This would also create a state supervision commission.
Bill 356 from the house then goes to the senate to think about it. If the Senate approves, it goes to Government Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has said she advocates legalizing recreational marijuana if proper precautions are taken.
If such a proposal were to become a law, New Mexico would become the 11th state to decriminalize marijuana, which remains illegal under federal law.
The fate of the bill in the Senate, where Republicans and several conservative Democrats have repeatedly voted against previous legalization efforts, remains unclear. A Senate initiative introduced by three Republicans, Senate Bill 577, has agreements with the House Bill, which gives the donors some hope that a law of legalization can evacuate the upper chamber of parliament.
Thursday's vote came only after one of the sponsors of the bill, Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, introduced a replacement bill that significantly changed the language in the original legislation.
Among the compromise measures: instead of allowing residents to own 2 ounces of marijuana, they could only own 1 ounce. While the original bill allowed New Mexicans to grow cannabis on their private property, that provision was made because of the fear of a & # 39; black market & # 39; Martinez said.
And, under the replacement bill, anyone who has purchased recreational marijuana from an approved store must be able to provide the receipt or the risk of criminal charges.
House Democrats in support of the bill called it a crime prevention measure and said it would help illegal traders and criminal cartels go bankrupt.
As one of the sponsors of the bill, Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas, D-Albuquerque: "Ban does not work."
Republicans who expressed opposition to the measure emphasized the potential for more car accidents with drivers testing positive for marijuana, especially in a state where a high number of drunk driving crashes have already taken place, some of them with deaths.
A February report from the University of Minnesota, which studied the impact of marijuana in the two states that first decriminalized it in 2012 – Colorado and Washington – found that officials in both states faced growing problems with drunk driving and use by minor residents.
In October, a report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute found a 6 percent increase in vehicle accidents in four states that have legalized marijuana: Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Nevada.
Legalization would come with a 4 percent duty, money that could bring tens of millions of dollars to the state, Martinez said. That money would be used for a variety of purposes, including investigations and to help law enforcement agencies to detect and combat DWIs caused by the use of marijuana.
The original law required a duty rate of 9 percent. Both the original and replacement bill would give counties and municipalities the right to impose additional local taxes.
The bill provides employers with a zero-tolerance policy with regard to cannabis use in the workplace.
"Cannabis legalization is inevitable," Maestas said.
Approximately 67,500 new Mexicans have legal access to marijuana and cannabis products for medical use, according to the New Mexico Department of Health. These are patients diagnosed by a doctor with one of a number of specific conditions and diseases – including cancer, HIV / AIDS and chronic pain – who benefit from a state law that was approved in 2007 by both the legislative and then government. Bill Richardson.