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Proponents try pot legalization again

SANTA FE, N.M. — For the fourth year in a row, the Legislature is being asked to consider taxing and regulating the sale of small amounts of marijuana, though the reform effort is a long shot this short session, advocates say.

Still, Rep. Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, and four other urban Democratic representatives filed the Cannabis Taxation and Regulation Act bill on Wednesday.

House Bill 312 would create a Division of Cannabis Control to “regulate and administer” the sale of cannabis, or marijuana, and collect fees in connection with commercial and medical cannabis programs.

“Legalizing small amounts of marijuana will also increase tax revenue and remove millions in sales from the criminal market, putting that money into the New Mexico economy. The marijuana industry will immediately create one of NM’s most lucrative industries, bigger than film, pecan, chile, and craft beer,” Emily Kaltenbach, New Mexico director for the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a news release.

She said she hopes the bill will spur discussion so the effort to reform marijuana laws continues.

“We don’t expect the bill to pass this year, but introducing it is important,” Kaltenbach said.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has consistently opposed efforts to decriminalize or legalize recreational marijuana use since taking office in 2011.

There are several other marijuana-related pieces of legislation pending in the current session.

Senate Joint Resolution 4 proposes a constitutional amendment legalizing recreational marijuana use. And Senate Bill 141 would decrease the penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

New Mexico is one of 29 states where medical marijuana is allowed. The District of Columbia and eight states, including Colorado, allow recreational use.

Co-sponsors of the bill are Bill McCamley of Mesilla Park, Angelica Rubio of Las Cruces, and Albuquerque representatives Antonio “Moe” Maestas and Deborah Armstrong.