Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, is one of three sponsors of a bill that would have legalized the recreational use of cannabis for New Mexicans over the age of 21. "This bill gives us a framework on how to regulate cannabis," Ortiz y Pino told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "Without this bill, it's the Wild West."

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-4 to table a bill that would have legalized the recreational use of cannabis for New Mexicans over the age of 21.

When legislators table a bill, it almost always means it will die. And with just one week left in this year’s 30-day legislative session, it’s unlikely the bill will rise from the dead.

Two Democrats joined four Republicans in tabling the measure. The vote came around 10 p.m. Wednesday after some 90 minutes of debate on the issue.

Legislators voting against the bill voiced various concerns, from its impact on residents’ health, the potential for DWI offenses with marijuana, and the complex and often vague language detailing the specifics of how the new law would be enacted.

Sen. Joe Cervantes, chairman of the committee, brought up a number of issues regarding ambiguities in the bill’s language, including a provision that an authorized member of a labor organization would have to play a role in the legal cannabis industry.

“I don’t think organized labor should have the final say over who gets a license and who doesn’t,” Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, told Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, an Albuquerque Democrat and one of three sponsors of the bill.

He also questioned the bill’s need to create a number of advisory committees under the direction of various state divisions.

Ortiz y Pino and others who spoke in favor of the bill talked about its potential to increase state revenues, create 11,000 jobs and regulate an industry that would otherwise remain a black market in the state.

“This bill gives us a framework on how to regulate cannabis,” Ortiz y Pino told the committee. “Without this bill, it’s the Wild West.”

Along with a bill that gives law enforcement the right to petition a court to take firearms away from an individual who is considered a risk to himself or others, the recreational cannabis bill was one of the most contentious of this year’s 30-day session.

But unlike the gun control bill, which sailed through the Senate fairly rapidly and moved through one House committee hearing with relative ease, Senate Bill 115 barely got out of the Senate Public Affairs Committee on a 4-3 vote in late January before staggering to the Judiciary Committee late Wednesday night.

Ortiz y Pino said he and the bill’s other sponsors have been meeting with supporters and opponents to make it more palatable. Earlier this week, Ortiz y Pino said he thought the bill had a 33 percent chance of making it to the legislative finish line this year.

Cervantes only heard the bill after working through a number of other bills and leading a lengthy line-by-line rework of a bill sponsored by Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, that would prohibit retailers from selling cigarettes and e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 21.

Sen. Richard Martinez, D-Ojo Caliente, joined Cervantes and Republican Sens. Bill Payne and Mark Moores of Albuquerque, Ron Griggs of Alamogordo and Greg Baca of Belen in tabling the bill.

On the Democratic side, Sens. Bill O’Neill, Mimi Stewart and Daniel Ivey-Soto of Albuquerque joined Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, in opposing the tabling motion.

Lopez was not present for the vote.

After the vote, Stewart expressed dismay and disappointment in the way the committee handled the bill, asking why it was not heard earlier in the session and earlier in the evening. No one on the committee offered a response.

“I don’t like what we’ve done here tonight,” she said.

Among other measures, the bill would have imposed a 9 percent tax on cannabis sales and created a regulatory advisory committee to help make up rules for implementing the program.

The implementation plan included coming up with a measure for police to conduct an oral fluid test on motorists to see whether they were driving under the influence of cannabis. It also would have required police to compile an annual report on the number of arrests, citations and other violations tied to those using the drug.

Following the vote, the governor, who supported the bill, issued a statement: “Legalized recreational cannabis in New Mexico is inevitable. The people of New Mexico have said they want it. A diversified state economy demands it. Poll after poll has demonstrated that New Mexicans want a 21st century economy and want cannabis to be part of it.

“I am disappointed but not deterred by tonight’s committee motion. The door remains open. We will keep working to get it done.”

Ortiz y Pino said he plans to keep working on the legislation and perhaps present it at interim legislative committees during the year.

“This was a valuable experience, as painful as it was, as frustrating as it was,” he told the committee.

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.

(9) comments

Mark Ortiz

Liquor lobby.

Dee Finney

Colorado has surpassed one billion dollars in marijuana tax reveue. More than 40 million people use marijuana in this country. We are one of the poorest states in the country and are desperate for revenue. It will all be going to Colorado for the near future, wake up legislators, we are all missing out on huge tax revenue. Ridiculous!

Tim Long

So, conservative legislators want to continue criminalizing potentially 75% of our population in order to impose their anachronistic prejudices, as well as disregard necessary public health and safety restrictions. It appears that their heads have been buried in the sand for so long they still believe the propaganda from the "reefer madness" era that has long been discredited -- initiated to provide jobs for unemployed G-men of the failed prohibition period, and economic factors such as paper supplies from William Randolph Hearst's Canadian timber forests. A rational

approach would be to legislate safeguards for public consumption rather than continue their outdated and failed attempts to discourage a common practice that, after tens of thousands of years of useful application, will surely never go away. And kicking the can down the road will just perpetuate an unsatisfactory situation.

Tim Long

Regarding the cannabis legalization effort, renowned astrophysicist Carl Sagan. says it best: "The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world."

Andrew Lucero

If this was any other state, then I would probably support this bill... But this is New Mexico, and we can't even drink responsibly here. You want to add marijuana to the mix? No thank you.

Tom Padilla

New Mexico must have some powerful special interests that don't want legalization. Follow the money to find the resistance!!!! The tax revenue alone should be reason enough. The proliferation of its use cannot get any worse than it already is..., seriously.

Mike Johnson

Thank goodness sanity prevails over stoned dope heads and their delusional ideas.

Steve Spraitz

Good they tabled it

Last caregiver I had , was smoking something in my living room after I said’ smoke outside’ if you wanna smoke

Few minutes later, she was smoking in my living room

I said ‘ what are you smoking’

Maui wowie!

I said you cannot smoke marijuana at work

‘ I have PTSD’

I said I can claim that but I don’t

Instead, she took 2 milligram Xanax before work instead . Until I found her lying on the ground and I says I’m taking you to the ER

I don’t think it should be legalized forvthat very reason

Next thing, they are going to smoke, drink, or eat it every chance they get at work and elsewhere

Alan Courtney

Are you high?

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