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Legalization must address adequate supply, social justice and protect medical users

This year in the Roundhouse we have seen several competing legalization bills; sadly only two of the bills proposed have any true social justice equity provisions, and only these two actually address the shortage of cannabis supply in the medical program.

All the bills are called the Cannabis Regulation Act, and the focus is on House Bill 12, Senate Bill 13 and Senate Bill 363. It is crucial to see the 55th Legislature finally seal the deal in the state’s decade-long saga in pursuit of cannabis legalization and repair the damage from the failed War on Drugs.

Unfortunately most of the attention for legalization has focused on production limits for growing cannabis in all the bills, which has drawn the most scrutiny, when the focus should be on protecting the medical program and social justice measures.

There is a group of medical cannabis business owners, the New Mexico Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, whose main concern has been limiting how much cannabis can be grown under a new legalization law. In reality what they are doing is trying to impose a way to control the price of cannabis on the legal market by limiting its supply for their benefit.

The Cannabis Chamber of Commerce has been promoting SB 13 by (state Sen. Daniel) Ivey-Soto, (D-Albuquerque,) for legalization, a bill that limits cannabis production and without any social justice equity measures. That’s a bad deal for all New Mexicans.

All the legalization bills are creating a system of regulation to be built on the back of our current medical cannabis laws. And infrastructure is not designed to serve the supply and demands of a new recreational cannabis law with limited production.

And multiple times in recent years we have had District Court judges in Santa Fe declare the NMDOH regulatory cannabis plant count to be arbitrary and capricious.

Putting forth any cannabis legalization bill without comprehensive social justice and equity provisions is a questionable action, especially here in New Mexico.

Not limiting how many cannabis plants a licensee can grow actually limits the black market activity, while limiting production will make it harder to meet the supply needs for the consumer as well as meeting the supply needs for the medical cannabis program.

Allowing homegrown cannabis is also a social justice measure. Of all other states that have begun legal cannabis sales over the years, only one, Illinois, has outlawed homegrowing. This year, Washington state is adding homegrowing to their legalization law. Colorado does not limit production or ban homegrowing, and that has not impacted tax revenues, which have grown every year. The city of Denver has more cannabis licenses than the state of California and it’s a safer city to live in than Albuquerque.

Key differences between the legalization bills:

⋄ HB 12 and SB 363 both address the “shortage of cannabis supply in the medical program.”

⋄ HB 12 and SB 363 both address the plant cap, “the division shall not limit the number of plants the licensee may possess, cultivate or manufacture.”

⋄ HB 12 and SB 363 both provide: “an individual appointed to the cannabis regulatory advisory committee shall not hold any ownership interest or investment in a licensed entity pursuant to the Cannabis Regulation Act.”

⋄ HB 12 and SB 363 both have social justice equity measures.

⋄ HB 12 has the NMDOH handling the Medical Cannabis Program patient registry, SB 363 does not partner with NMDOH in any way.

HB 12 by state Reps. Javier Martínez, D-Albuquerque, and Andrea Romero, D-Santa Fe, and SB 363 by state Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, are the two best options for legalization in New Mexico in 2021.

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