/New Mexico medical marijuana businesses had issues with failed recreational legalization bill

New Mexico medical marijuana businesses had issues with failed recreational legalization bill

While legalizing recreational marijuana in New Mexico appears dead until 2021, this year’s legislative measure was problematic enough that even the state’s leading medical marijuana operator had deep concerns.

Duke Rodriguez, the CEO of UltraHealth, which is “100% committed to legalization,” said rejecting this nearly 200-page version was probably the right decision by lawmakers.

“They were trying to create an animal that had so many different body parts that you couldn’t identify it anymore,” he said Thursday in a telephone interview with Marijuana Business Daily.

A key state Senate Committee voted 6-4 Wednesday night to table the bill, leaving just the “slimmest of slim possibilities” that it could be resurrected before this year’s legislative session ends on Feb. 20, Rodriguez said.

The measure called for a 9% tax on retail sales.

Rodriguez said UltraHealth’s issues with the bill included:

  • A failure to explicitly preserve the state’s vertically integrated business structure. Rodriguez said the bill introduced a complicated regulatory structure with 10 types of licenses.
  • A failure to define recreational and medical cannabis limits on consumer purchases.

Marijuana Policy Project had considered New Mexico a state that could possibly legalize adult-use sales this year but knew it would be a challenge because of the state’s short legislative session. The session, which is shorter in even-numbered years, ends next week.

The Drug Policy Alliance took the advocacy lead for the New Mexico effort, while MPP is focused on states, such as Connecticut, which seem more likely to legalize this year.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, had raised hopes by pushing for legalization, in part as a way to diversify the state’s economy away from traditional oil and gas.

She appointed a legalization policy task force to reach a consensus after adult-use legislative efforts stalled last year. The group issued recommendations last October.

But the “bill ended up being a hybrid, and that may have been a problem,” Rodriguez said.

Democratic Judiciary Committee Chair Joseph Cervantes described the effort as bringing together “all the cooks in the kitchen” to produce a measure that favored special interests and required marijuana businesses to sign pacts with organized labor.

Meanwhile, New Mexico’s medical cannabis program likely will continue to grow.

The updated Marijuana Business Factbook estimates 2019 MMJ sales in New Mexico at $115 million-$145 million, up from $106 million in 2018.

Historically, however, the medical marijuana program has reflected tension between the industry and the state health department, with disagreements over dispensary caps and cultivation counts being hashed out through litigation.

That relationship could improve with the pro-marijuana stance of Grisham, who took office last year.

Jeff Smith can be reached at [email protected]

Associated Press contributed to this report.