State Rep. Javier Martínez said he is “cautiously optimistic” his bill legalizing adult use of recreational cannabis will get to the governor’s desk before the legislative session ends Saturday.

The odds may not be bad. The full Senate plans to vote Friday on a heavily amended version of the measure after it passed what might have been its toughest hurdle, the Senate Judiciary Committee, on a narrow vote early Thursday following hours of debate and revisions by weary lawmakers in a hearing that began late Wednesday night.

In a final move before the vote, committee Chairman Joe Cervantes, a Las Cruces Democrat who does not support the effort, chided Martínez and other sponsors of House Bill 12 for sloppy language and provisions he said conflict with existing state law.

“I don’t believe your bill has been very carefully read,” he said.

As the bill reads, Cervantes said, it would be legal for a parent over 21 to give cannabis to a child. And, he added, the bill says in several sections adults could legally posses “at least” 2 ounces of cannabis outside their home — when instead its authors clearly meant “up to.”

While such a detail may seem minuscule, it could have major implications in enforcing intended restrictions.

Cervantes, like many members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is an attorney.

Martínez, D-Albuquerque, said in an interview Thursday he and co-sponsor Rep. Andrea Romero, a Santa Fe Democrat, would work on “fixes” for the faulty language before bringing HB 12 to the Senate floor.

The bill’s sponsors and supporters took Cervantes’ comments “to heart,” he said, “and we will try to incorporate as much of his feedback as we can.”

HB 12 was one of at least five bills that aimed to create a legal system of production and sales for recreational cannabis. It gained momentum early in the session and was the only one to reach either chamber. It underwent several changes in the process.

Emily Kaltenbach, senior state director of the national nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance, which backs HB 12, said she expects a “handful of amendments” on the Senate floor to further improve the measure.

“That’s the reason we have our Senate Judiciary and House Judiciary committees,” she said. “That’s a place where some of those conflicts that were not caught prior and identified can be fixed.”

Two of the changes the Senate Judiciary Committee approved would put a cap on plant production for the program’s first three years and require an independent organization to conduct product safety testing and certification. The provision would prohibit a licensed producer from obtaining a separate license to serve as a testing site.

Supporters have been eager for some form of cannabis legislation to pass both chambers since the session began in January. HB 12 was the early favorite, largely because of its heavy focus on what proponents called social justice provisions.

Under the bill, some of the tax revenue generated from cannabis sales would fund substance abuse treatment efforts in communities hit hardest by drug use, provide education programs for children and teens, and allow for a review and expungement of criminal cases related to cannabis possession and use.

Martínez told the Senate Judiciary Committee it also would open the door to small growers and sellers, offering business opportunities for minority people throughout the state, and it would allow adults over 21 to grow plants for personal use.

Kaltenbach said those “social issues and equity pieces are driving this legislation.” The bill can “start to repair some of the harm that [cannabis] prohibition has placed on the backs of people of color and invest money into those communities,” she added.

Wednesday’s hearing included a review of Senate Bill 288, sponsored by Republican Sen. Cliff Pirtle of Roswell. He tried to convince lawmakers to back his bill, but Cervantes noted it didn’t have much of a chance so late in the session. The Senate Judiciary Committee was only its second stop in a long legislative process.

“The horses are lined up behind a different bill,” Cervantes said, “the bill that probably has the horses to get beyond the [finish] line.”

HB 12 would task the state Regulation and Licensing Department with most of the program’s oversight.

The department would begin issuing licenses on April 1, 2022, under the current version of the bill. But licensed medical cannabis producers could apply for a recreational-use license and get a head start on new entrepreneurs.

An initial license for production or sales would cost $2,500, while a second or subsequent license to operate at an additional site would cost $1,000.

The Regulation and Licensing Department would monitor cannabis production and use for three years, during which time a cap — not yet announced — would be in place. That cap would be lifted in summer 2025 following a study on the market’s supply and demand.

Lujan Grisham has said she would support a bill legalizing recreational cannabis.

Nora Meyers Sackett, a spokeswoman for the governor, wrote in an email Thursday the administration will be “following the Senate floor debate closely.”

“But we’re very glad it’s moving forward and very optimistic it will get done in time,” she added.

General Assignment Reporter

Robert Nott has covered education and youth issues for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He is assigned to The New Mexican's city desk where he covers a general assignment beat.

(12) comments

Angel Ortiz

Well looks as though NM will pass up on the opportunity to legalization of marijuana. No worries. Keep burning coal, and prostituting us to the oil industry and even perhaps allowing fracking to evolve and spread across our state. Seems like an amazing plan looking forward into the future.

zach miller

funny how cervantes can complain, but since he has no science or facts to back up his personal feelings, he just claims that people haven't read the bill very carefully. What a jerk. If you got something to say cervantes, say it; but I guess "I am being paid to oppose this bill" doesn't have the same ring as "you didn't read it to my liking"

Khal Spencer

When it takes 217 pages to legalize pot (HB 12 with amendments in context), something is seriously wrong.

Khal Spencer

Here is the national map of pot legalization. Folks can look up the individual state economic indicators if they are worried that legal weed will result in us all lying around eating brownies. me an idea for a new startup! Casa Solana Brownie and Munchie Company.

Khal Spencer

Faulty language? I don't know about Mr. Martinez, but Rep. Andrea "Whistle Pig" Romero was the representative who wanted to pass a law allowing her to in effect erase her past from the public record.

The difference between "up to" and "at least" ain't a fine point. I'm sure some folks would be happy to wander around outside their home with a kilogram of Rio Arriba Ditch Weed. More to share!

Mike Johnson

Yes, the infamous #ResistRomero, with her vast experience at expensive entertaining and raising ostriches is the perfect co-sponsor of a bill to flood NM with people smoking dope.....

Grace Trujillo

How naive some people can be about legalizing cannabis. What this state needs, urgently, is rehabilitation facilities that we do not have. Which the funds raised from the taxes would pay for. On top of that importance, there are people that depend on the cannabis for relief of pain. No proven research has been done to prove that cannabis is a gateway drug or addicting. We will legalizing alcohol, which is more of a problem than cannabis at this time. What our state needs is Rehabilitation Facilities to get people off of the Opiods that doctors have put them on and go them addicted to. Overdose rates would decrease, more people would get the help they need and children would get part of the funds also. This is a win-win bill and should passed and signed by the Governor. How many years have we been fighting for the state to open Rehabilitation Centers to help the people of our communities.

Khal Spencer

Your post needs a bit of editing. Its a little confusing.

Brad Doubles

With legalized weed, NM will get just what it needs...more lazy dopers that get nothing done. Dumbing down the population is the best way for NM to succeed? Truly bassackwards...

Robert Kowalski

Please show everyone the numbers in states that already have legal weed? I mean since you seem to know what will happen I’m guessing you have stats to back it up?

David Ford

That's funny Robert. Asking a GQP retrumplican for "facts and stats" because that is not how they operate. They push out a contrarian view or conspiracy theory with nothing to back it up and after a while they just simply believe it. Simple, simple, simple.....

Khal Spencer

Fully legal in Massachusetts. Sure has not slowed them down.

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