Marijuana takes center stage in New Mexico special session

Full Screen
1 / 5

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

FILE - In this March 6, 2019, file photo, Korbin Osborn, left, works as a cannabis adviser at a medical marijuana dispensary in Santa Fe, N.M. Legislation to legalize cannabis in New Mexico advanced Thursday, March 18, 2021, toward a decisive Senate floor vote under a framework that emphasizes government oversight of pricing and supplies and social services for communities where the criminalization of pot led to aggressive policing. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee, File)

SANTA FE, N.M. – New Mexico lawmakers are embarking on an unusual legislative session that may focus entirely on the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Efforts at legalizing the sale of cannabis to adults 21 and older faltered during the regular annual session that ended March 20, amid divergent views about government oversight of a lucrative market.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has called back legislators to the Statehouse to hammer out an agreement on thorny issues of tax rates on pot sales, precautions against child access and court procedures for reversing past cannabis convictions. Negotiations are well underway in private.

The special session will begin Tuesday. House Republicans criticized the effort as frivolous and disrespectful in the run-up to Good Friday and Easter celebrations in a heavily Roman Catholic state.

Lujan Grisham's administration has pushed for close oversight of marijuana markets, including possible caps on licenses and the amount of marijuana grown. Legalization skeptics have cautioned against any regulations that create a government-sanctioned monopoly that might hinder opportunity.

Successful legislation would extend legal recreational cannabis sales across the American Southwest, from California to the New Mexico state line with Texas, which still prohibits nonmedical pot.

“It’s a big economic development tool that we have at our disposal. And it is the right thing to do,” said Democratic state Rep. Javier Martinez, lead sponsor a bill that won House approval in February and stalled amid discord in the Senate.

His bill emphasized support for communities where the criminalization of pot led to aggressive policing, offering automated expungement procedures for past marijuana crimes to opportunities for small-time entrepreneurs through “micro-licenses.”