Things are moving rather quickly for the national movement to legalize cannabis.
The New Mexico state legislature voted to do so on Wednesday night, and once Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signs the legislation as expected, the state will become the 16th in the nation to legalize cannabis for recreational use. New Mexico is the second state to vote to legalize the drug in 24 hours. Earlier on Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a legalization bill, which the state’s legislature had passed Tuesday night.
“This is a significant victory for New Mexico,” Lujan Grisham wrote in a statement after the Cannabis Regulation Act was passed, citing new jobs, new tax revenue, and the state’s “smart, equitable approach to low-level convictions.”
As was the case in New York, New Mexico’s legalization legislation includes a several measures focused on equity and restorative justice, including the automatic expungement of criminal records of those arrested for low-level offenses. Advocates are also pleased with how the bill requires the state to promote diversity in the marketplace, as well as with how it takes into account the state’s complex history. “There’s specific language that names Acequia, tribal, land grant, and other historic communities,” Emily Kaltenbach of Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico tells Rolling Stone.
“New Mexico is a state, like most other states, that has experienced disproportionate arrests for cannabis,” Kaltenbach adds. “This bill is going to change lives in New Mexico, not only from the automatic expungement and re-sentencing components, but to help create some equity in the industry and protection for users.”
The Cannabis Regulation Act allows for the possessions of up to two ounces of cannabis for adults 21 and over, permits the home cultivation of up to six plants, and, unlike New York’s legislation, prevents local governments from opting out of retail sales. Legal retail sales are schedule to begin in New Mexico on April 1st, 2022.
New York becoming the 15th state to legalize for recreational use and New Mexico voting to become the 16th isn’t the only legalization news from Wednesday. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced that he is proposing changes to legislation passed earlier this year that would rapidly accelerate the timeline for the state to legalize recreational cannabis. If the changes are adopted, cannabis will be legal in the state by July 1st. Under the legislation passed earlier this year, it wouldn’t happen until 2024.
“Our Commonwealth is committed to legalizing marijuana in an equitable way,” Northam said in a press release. “Virginia will become the 15th state to legalize marijuana — and these changes will ensure we do it with a focus on public safety, public health, and social justice.”
State legalization is expanding so fast that Northam’s release is already out of date. If Virginia does indeed legalize cannabis this summer, it will now be the 17th state to do so. Lawmakers will consider the amendments he proposed next week.