The state didn’t pass adult-use marijuana legalization earlier this year, but NM Gov. Lujan Grisham may have signaled a new proposal on the horizon.
Cannabis industry CEOs have proposed marijuana legalization as possible solution to boost the economy following turmoil caused by the coronavirus. While the pandemic has stalled or altogether stopped some legalization campaigns ahead of the 2020 election, one state now expresses regret for not ending cannabis prohibition in prior months.
During a press conference last week, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham answered queries about how the state economy will rebound later this year. Grisham responded that New Mexico plans on working with the energy sector, including oil and gas companies, to create programs appealing to the state and federal economy.
She added that marijuana legalization would have made any economy recovery that much easier.
“If there was ever a time for wishful thinking, I wish we had passed recreational cannabis because that was $100 million,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said. “Those are pre-COVID-19 estimates, but $100 million in the budget. And I am very sad about that.”
Lujan Grisham had voiced support for recreational cannabis legalization earlier this year. In a January announcement, the governor’s office projected such action could generate more than 10,000 agricultural jobs and a possible $100 million in tax revenue. The latter estimate combines revenue windfalls from the state’s pre-existing medical dispensaries and projections from a legal recreational market.
Though the governor’s task force approved proposed legislation, the bill died in a state Senate committee. The draft, however, had a starting date of July 1, 2020. It is unlikely, as the Santa Fe Reporter noted, that New Mexico would see any adult-use marijuana tax revenue amid the coronavirus pandemic as result.
However, the subtle mention by Grisham could signal a new proposal on the horizon. State lawmakers expect to revise significant portions of the New Mexico budget, as estimates of potential industry losses start at $500 million. The governor expects the state Legislature to reconvene for a special session in mid to late June.
Though legal cannabis won’t fix all the state’s economic problem, advocates suggest that it can be part of the solution.
“She is right, that if we could legalize cannabis in New Mexico, it’s not going to solve our budget woes, but it would add to the state coffers,” Emily Kaltenbach, executive director of the New Mexico Drug Policy Alliance, told SFR. “We need to be creative and we need to diversify our economy so that we are not reliant on oil and gas, and legalization is one of the ways to do that. So, it’s encouraging to hear perhaps we may be more inclined to legalize given the economic situation we are in right now.”