Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Could Legal Marijuana Fund Medicaid Programs? This Gov. Thinks So

New Mexico Gov. sees legalization as funding stopgap for government programs like Medicaid, and will campaign for it.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham expressed regret this April the state did not legalize recreational cannabis before the coronavirus pandemic. Lawmakers were discussing ways New Mexico’s economy could recover and avoid budget deficits.

“If there was ever a time for wishful thinking, I wish we had passed recreational cannabis because that was $100 million,” Gov. Grisham said at the time. “Those are pre-COVID-19 estimates, but $100 million in the budget. And I am very sad about that.”

RELATED: Study: Medical Marijuana Could Save Medicaid $1 Billion

Grisham renewed this lament during a press briefing last Thursday, responding to a question about how the state will fund programs amid the pandemic. Federal lawmakers remain locked in a months-long stalemate over the next round of coronavirus stimulus package. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday “it doesn’t look that good right now” that a deal will happen soon.

New Mexico
Photo by Braden Collum via Unsplash

The lack of new funding affects programs at the state level as well and Grisham acknowledged that New Mexico must “look for innovative ways to increase economic activity.” She used the opportunity to again “plug” marijuana as a potential solution.

“Recreational cannabis is one of those areas where that’s $100 million,” she said. “It doesn’t fix it, but it plugs one of those holes. It potentially would be enough to do a whole lot in the Medicaid gaps.”

RELATED: New Mexico Gov. Regrets Not Legalizing Marijuana Pre-Coronavirus

She made similar calls of recreational cannabis as a potential economic solution back in May. A survey found nearly 3 in 4 New Mexicans favor adult-use marijuana legalization, but lawmakers failed to pass legislation ending state prohibition earlier this year. Grisham hinted she may campaign against those legislators the blocked the cannabis bill, which has become a focal point of her administration.

“We have an opportunity,” she said. “I think all of our policymakers need to think clearly—and they should expect me to be supporting in the next general election—we have to pass recreational cannabis in the state. We need to diversify our economy, we need to increase opportunity for recurring revenue and we have to rebuild an economy that has suffered dramatically during this public health crisis.”


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