031921XGR_144.JPG

Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, stands next to a stack of potential amendments Friday in preparation for a floor debate.

While touting the successes lawmakers pulled off during an unprecedented 60-day legislative session in the shadow of a deadly pandemic, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Saturday she’s calling them back in two weeks to take care of unfinished business: legalizing recreational marijuana.

“We have an incredible framework ready to go for adult-use cannabis,” the governor said during a news conference with Democratic leaders at the conclusion of the session.

“And given the circumstances where you have to come together and really look at that couldn’t get done in time for both chambers who want to be able to vote on adult use, so we’re going to give them that opportunity,” she added.

Lujan Grisham said her expectation and hope is lawmakers will reconvene “on or about March 31.”

“When you have a bipartisan effort working on a framework to get this done, it makes no sense to make New Mexicans wait when we’ve got it ready to go,” she said.

The governor didn’t rule out the possibility other measures would be considered at the special session, calling it “premature” to say nothing else would be on the agenda.

“But the purpose is not to extend a 60-day session,” she said. “That would be inappropriate.”

Though a push to legalize recreational marijuana fizzled in the final days of the session, the governor and other Democratic leaders lauded the accomplishments a new and more progressive group of lawmakers helped propel, including the repeal of a decades-old law that criminalizes abortion and asking voters to allow the state to tap into a permanent fund to help pay for prekindergarten and K-12 programs. Both efforts had stalled in the past by more moderate Democrats whose conservative-leaning stances made them a target and contributed to their ouster in the last election.

“No question, our seven amazing Democratic freshmen ran on a platform of repealing the abortion bill, the [Land Grant] Permanent Fund and legalization of cannabis, and so two of the three are done [and] the third is coming,” said Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, a Santa Fe Democrat. “There is no question in our chamber, the voters spoke, and the members that were elected delivered what the voters asked them to do.”

One of the freshmen, Sen. Leo Jaramillo, D-Española, said the group of new lawmakers has “not forgotten to help the New Mexicans who have supported us.”

“We recognize forward thinking and action were required to address the pandemic, unemployment, poverty and human rights because our job was to give a voice to those who have felt in the past that their voice was never heard,” he said.

The measures passed by legislators reflect that “New Mexicans are very clear about their priorities,” the governor said.

“This is a session about our recovery, our health and our future, and we expect every one of our policymakers to make that happen,” she said. “No question that that’s changing about where our focuses are in the state of New Mexico.”

Lujan Grisham, who kicked off the news conference by “celebrating that we are No. 1 in the nation for vaccines,” listed in rapid fire what she called the “incredible efforts” of lawmakers during the session.

“Economic relief — nearly a billion dollars before the American Rescue Plan. Done,” she said, referring to a series of pandemic relief bills passed at the beginning of the session, including $200 million in grants for businesses.

“I will tell you that New Mexico is doing far better than the vast majority of states by focusing our efforts, our resources and our energy in making sure that economic security for businesses, individuals and workers is made as whole as we can.”



The governor also said she was “incredibly proud” of the alcohol reform passed by lawmakers. The legislation permits home delivery and allows restaurateurs to purchase new liquor licenses more affordably. It also would ban the sale of mini liquor bottles, part of an effort to deal with drunken driving and other alcohol-related problems in the state.

“It is a monumental effort. Done,” Lujan Grisham said.

The proposed constitutional amendment to tap the permanent fund a “poquito pinch” reflects “decades’ worth of work by both the House and the Senate to create the kind of stability and reliability in funding that is cradle-to-career education in this state,” she added.

Lujan Grisham thanked both chambers for “giving us a lift up” in both the Opportunity Scholarship and the lottery scholarship.

“Environmental protection. The patient affordability fund. Done. Done,” she said. “You name a priority area, and I can tell you that we have incredible leadership and incredible success in the Legislature this legislative session.”

Legalizing recreational marijuana was among the governor’s legislative priorities, and she said she expects it to happen soon.

“I feel very confident that we’re going to be able to announce adult-use cannabis in the very near future in New Mexico,” she said.

While the pandemic created an “unprecedented situation,” House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said Democrats didn’t want to let the coronavirus “deter us from doing the work that was critically needed by the people of New Mexico.”

“Folks said, ‘Let’s postpone this session. There’s nothing we need to do now that can’t be done later,’ ” he said. “We saw that that was not the right view when early on in the session we passed Senate and House bills to deliver hundreds of millions of dollars in direct support to New Mexico small businesses and in tax relief to working people.”

Egolf said lawmakers passed what he believes is the largest expansion of the Working Families Tax Credit and the Low Income Comprehensive Tax Rebate in the state’s history.

“Those are our two most effective poverty-reduction policies in our tax code,” he said. “They have lifted thousands of New Mexicans out of poverty.”

With the exception of recreational marijuana, Wirth said he was able to check off “a whole bunch of things” from a list of items he has wanted to accomplish for a few years.

“Well, guess what?” he said. “There’s only one thing left that is not checked off, and we’re going to do it.”

Wirth said a deal on cannabis was close. He defended his decision to not put the matter up for debate Friday night.

“When you have a Republican member with a shopping cart full of amendments and a lot of Red Bulls right next door,” he said, referring to Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, “and you have a House that’s stuck on three-hour concurrences, there was no way it was ready. … I really commend the governor for bringing us back. Let’s take a breath, and let’s get this right.”

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter @danieljchacon.

(27) comments

Mary Jane

All cannabis aside, any word on whether the schools in Santa Fe are going to reopen now that the teachers will to be vaccinated? Or, are we going to wait for the next conjunction between Saturn and Jupiter while toking up?

Jeff Varela

While the pandemic created an “unprecedented situation,” House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said Democrats didn’t want to let the coronavirus “deter us from doing the work that was critically needed by the people of New Mexico.” Another politically correct statement, covered up by the "people of New Mexico" mantra.

Sabine Strohem

Good. Why should NM keep letting Colorado make all the money?

B. Rosen

And Arizona, Nevada, California, etc.....

zach miller

including low thc strains, more states have legal weed than not... NM the land of "lets do it tomorrow"

Joseph Tafoya

The new version of an old show "The Bong Show", staring MLK and the state legislators. This is about money and demonstrates how the Democrat's fiscal responsibilities have failed New Mexico. They are desperate for cash now that the state is destroying our economy and our fossile fuel tax base.

zach miller

ah yes, when Amazon diversified from books to an online store to increase revenue from different streams of income, it was actually just a sign of amazon failing.. you know, in 1998...

B. Rosen

They should have passed this legislation years ago. I really don’t get why this has to be so contentious. Many states have already done this and it has not led to chaos and madness. Though I don’t take any kind of intoxicants personally, the folks who do enjoy marijuana don’t deserve to be treated as criminals anymore than the folks who enjoy alcohol do.

paul pacheco

Its about greed, its about votes! How pathetic this new wave of a governor and her disciples are! But it’ll back-fire. Expecting lots of revenue from letting every body get stoned? We’ll see.....

zach miller

in a representative democracy every decision should be based on votes. I wouldn't expect the party of lets storm the US Capitol to overturn the election to understand, but it doesn't make what you say make sense to those of us in reality.

Richard Irell

Are you planning to get stoned? Or are you not everybody?

Pam Walker

Let the problems begin. Legalize a mind altering drug. The cartel will love this. Anyone and everyone knows that the street dealers will be much cheaper than the legal dealers. And along with marijuana they will most likely have a few other choices. A stoned NM. whats new.

zach miller

cartel only makes money on weed in NM because it is illegal. Ah yes, everyone knows as soon as marijuana is legal the cartel's brick weed will be NM's go to choice instead in-state grown hydroponics.

Mike Johnson

Well said Ms. Walker, and the voters will get what they elected, elect those who love smoking dope and don't care about the problems it creates, and you will get the problems, and not enough tax money to pay for even half of them. NM slips even further back in the lists, but with a stoned populace, who cares, pass the joint Bogart.....

John Kivlighan

A special session so the State can become a drug dealer. Go figure?

John Cook

Yes, there was a bill passed to allow more liquor licenses. A truly dangerous drug.

Angel Ortiz

I'll take a stoner over an angry alcoholic any day of the week.

John Cook

[thumbup]

B. Rosen

[thumbup]

Mike Mellon

[thumbup]

Seth Feder

👍

Angel Ortiz

Tell that to Arizona and Colorado.

John Cook

I think the 36% cap on interest rates failed. If so, it should be in the special session. Let those House members who took bribes from the loan companies be in the full light of day.

rodney carswell

[thumbup]

Mike Mellon

[thumbup]

Mike Johnson

True, very true, but in logical actuality, the cap should be 18%, even 36% is a Mafia extortion rate.

zach miller

Dang, the Governor is working harder at being a NM Legislator than members of the NM Legislator.

Welcome to the discussion.

Thank you for joining the conversation on Santafenewmexican.com. Please familiarize yourself with the community guidelines. Avoid personal attacks: Lively, vigorous conversation is welcomed and encouraged, insults, name-calling and other personal attacks are not. No commercial peddling: Promotions of commercial goods and services are inappropriate to the purposes of this forum and can be removed. Respect copyrights: Post citations to sources appropriate to support your arguments, but refrain from posting entire copyrighted pieces. Be yourself: Accounts suspected of using fake identities can be removed from the forum.