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Cannabis legalization bill headed to House floor

Customers are shown in a cannabis retailer in Denver in this 2014 file photo. New Mexico would join Colorado and several other western states that have legalized recreational cannabis for adult users if one of several bills filed at the Roundhouse is ultimately signed into law by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

SANTA FE — A bill legalizing recreational cannabis for adult New Mexicans is headed to the House floor after passing its second assigned committee Wednesday.

Members of the House Taxation and Revenue Committee voted 8-4 to approve the legislation, House Bill 12, which could be voted on by the full chamber in the coming days.

The vote broke down along party lines, with Democrats voting in favor of the legislation and Republicans in opposition.

“New Mexico can lead the way with an adult-use cannabis legalization effort that protects medical cannabis patients, ensures racial equity in the new industry, and regulates and taxes this industry in smart ways,” said the bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, after Wednesday’s vote.

Backers of cannabis legalization have expressed optimism this could be the year a bill makes it to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk for final approval, after attempts in recent legislative sessions came up short unsuccessful.

In its current form, the bill calls for a statewide 8% excise tax on legal marijuana sales. Cities and counties could both impose an additional 4% in local taxes on top of that.

In addition, the bill would allow New Mexicans to grow up to six mature cannabis plants, while also setting other personal use limits. It would impose no limit on how many plants licensed producers could grow.

Even if it wins approval in the Democratic-controlled House, however, the bill still faces significant hurdles ahead as a similar measure stalled last year in a Senate committee.

In addition, several competing cannabis legalization measures are scheduled to be debated Saturday in a different Senate panel.

Nationwide, 15 states have legalized recreational cannabis sales to adult users, or are doing so. Arizona and three other states approved legalization referendums last year.

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