SANTA FE, N.M. (June 29, 2021) – As of today, adults can legally use marijuana in New Mexico despite ongoing federal cannabis prohibition.

A coalition of five Democrats introduced House Bill 2 (HB2) on March 30 during a special session. Under the law, adults 21 and over can possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana, 16 grams of cannabis concentrates, and 800 milligrams of infused edibles. The law also allows home cultivation of up to six plants per person for personal use with a limit of 12 plants per household.

The new law creates a regulatory structure for commercial cultivation and retail sales of marijuana in the state.

The New Mexico House passed HB2 by a 38-32 vote. The Senate approved the measure 22-15. With Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s signature on April 12, the law went into effect as of June 29, 2021. Retail marijuana sales will begin no later than April 1, 2022

The New Mexico legislature also passed a second bill (SB2) to automatically expunge criminal records relating to cannabis acts no longer illegal under state law.  People currently in custody for cannabis crimes will also be eligible for resentencing under the law.

EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION

Under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains complete prohibition of marijuana. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate cannabis within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

New Mexico legalized medical marijuana in 2007. The legalization of recreational cannabis removes another layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana in the state even though federal prohibition remains in effect. This is significant because FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. When states stop enforcing marijuana laws, they sweep away most of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

A GROWING MOVEMENT

New Mexico joins a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition and nullifying it in practice.

Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalize recreational cannabis, and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joined them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization passed in November 2016. Michigan followed suit when voters legalized cannabis for general use in 2018. Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a legislative act in 2018. Illinois followed suit in 2019. New Jersey, Montana and Arizona all legalized recreational marijuana through ballot measures in the 2020 election. Earlier this year, New York and Virginia legalized marijuana through legislative action.

With 36 states allowing cannabis for medical use, and 17 legalizing for adult recreational use, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition anymore.

The lesson here is pretty straightforward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations, or mandates down our throats.

Mike Maharrey