New Mexico lawmakers will take another stab at legalizing recreational marijuana during what is expected to be a brief but fast-paced special session that will begin Tuesday.

Marijuana won’t be the only issue on the agenda.

Lawmakers also will consider expanding the Local Economic Development Act, according to the office of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who announced Friday she will call the New Mexico Legislature into a special session March 30 “to take up a pair of economic and job creation items that were left unfinished in the 60-day session.”

While lawmakers will be taking up two issues, the attention likely will be on the effort to legalize cannabis for adult use, which fizzled in the final days of the 60-day legislative session that ended a week ago. Legalizing recreational marijuana, one of the governor’s legislative priorities, also failed to gain traction last year.

“I am grateful to those legislative leaders and members who have expressed enthusiasm about returning to the people’s work so soon after a challenging 60-day session,” Lujan Grisham said in a statement.

“The unique circumstances of the session, with public health safeguards in place, in my view prevented the measures on my call from crossing the finish line,” she added. “While I applaud the Legislature and staff for their incredible perseverance and productivity during the 60-day in the face of these challenges, we must and we will forge ahead and finish the job on these initiatives together for the good of the people and future of our great state.”

The timing of the special session during Holy Week has sparked criticism from Republican leaders in both chambers.

“Once again, the governor is sacrificing the best interests of New Mexicans to accommodate the special interests of her big donors,” Republican leaders in the state Senate said in a joint statement.

“While she waited months to call a special session to address the COVID crisis, she has now announced a special session on marijuana less than a week after the Legislature adjourned,” the statement continued.

They also said marijuana legalization didn’t warrant a special session that would cost New Mexico taxpayers about $50,000 a day.

“Adding further insult to injury,” they said, “the governor has scheduled the special session during Holy Week exactly one year after she shuttered churches on the eve of Easter Sunday. This snub against New Mexicans of faith, including many Legislators, is disrespectful and inexcusable.”

Some people have dubbed the special session “Holy Weed week.”

The special session might be over before Good Friday.

“With the Legislature’s diligent work we hope to conclude the special session within just a couple days — it could be as short as one day,” the governor’s press secretary, Nora Meyers Sackett, wrote in an email.



While Republicans decried the special session, others hailed the move.

House Speaker Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said in a statement that “the upcoming special session will get legislation across the finish line that builds on the previous 60 days and helps secure a diverse economic future for all. Our work is not done.”

The Drug Policy Alliance, which has been involved in negotiations, said, “New Mexicans may not have to wait much longer to reap the benefits and justice cannabis legalization will provide.”

“We have been working around the clock to ensure that the racial justice and equity provisions, public health priorities, and medical cannabis patient protections will be included in the special session cannabis legalization package,” Emily Kaltenbach, a state director for the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. “New Mexicans are ready to see marijuana legalization become a reality in the state, but they have made it clear that repairing the damage done by the drug war is non-negotiable.”

Sen. Cliff Pirtle, a Roswell Republican, announced Friday he had introduced “compromise cannabis legalization bill” ahead of the session.

“This bill is the only piece of legislation with bipartisan support,” he said in a statement.

The Governor’s Office said lawmakers on both sides of the aisle “approached a balanced compromise measure” in the final hours of the session that ended last week.

“With general across-the-aisle agreement on the importance of the legalization initiative, the governor intends to see through final passage of this potentially significant economic driver, which is estimated to create over 11,000 jobs, and ensure New Mexico is not left behind as more and more states adopt adult-use cannabis legalization,” a news release stated.

The effort to expand the LEDA program also is considered a move to boost economic development.

The initiative is designed to draw big job-creating projects to New Mexico.

“The bill would allow a portion of some state and local gross receipts tax and compensating revenue from the construction of large projects (more than $350 million) to be placed into the LEDA fund to help with recruitment of those large projects and to replenish the assistance for smaller projects,” the Governor’s Office said.

Bruce Krasnow, a spokesman for the state Economic Development Department, said the bill received committee approval but never made it to the floor because time ran out.

“Basically, we are seeing more and more inquiries from large job-creating companies interested in relocating or expanding operations in New Mexico and this will give us another tool to compete with bigger, wealthier states for these jobs,” he wrote in an email. “We think is a bold initiative that can change the economic development landscape for years to come.”

Follow Daniel J. Chacón on Twitter

@danieljchacon.

(8) comments

Tim Long

Observing the way republican legislators delay and divert progress, hopefully democrats can counteract by exercising their majority status as effectively. It has been said that the loudest opponents of cannabis are those who have never experienced the insight and lucidity of this very effective relaxant. I think the late renowned astrophysicist Carl Sagan and his wife, who were long time advocates for the use and legalization of cannabis, said 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." -- Carl Sagan

A government study in the late 1960s came to the same conclusion and recommended legalization at that time. Richard Nixon disregarded the recommendation, and used his drug war rhetoric in a partisan way to demonize his political opponents. The disgraceful history of William Randolph Hearst, Harry Anslinger and various commercial interests from the 1920s on, is readily available for those who really want to understand why so much negative propaganda was directed toward the new age spiritual community. With so much widespread open usage across all economic classes since the Woodstock era, I would think that legalization could return the public to a greater respect for the law, in general. It would be wonderful if our democracy was allowed to work as it was designed, encouraging voting and participation of all citizens, without the voter suppression and devious tactics used to force political opponents to comply to a particular minority view. We have a unique opportunity to correct the previous wrongdoings, and develop a reliable economic program to help take New Mexico into an ethical and prosperous future.

Stefanie Beninato

I was hoping the legislature would look at severely restricting predatory lending--that is restrict it to 36 %--doing something that would help people living on the edge.

zach miller

The GOP will always complain; its all they do. The least they could do is come up with a good reason why they refuse to properly represent their constituency, instead of lie constantly for the benefit of the 1%

Hopefully in future state elections the voters remember who stalled all these bills for personal reasons, making a better New Mexico further away each year, so when the next 60 day session starts, there isn't a need for a special session afterwards.

zach miller

Also pretty hilarious how a single person with a plant gets more ire out of people than a entire corporation in pharmaceuticals purposefully creating an opioid epidemic for profit. Wonder which one killed more people, by comments that continually appear, one would assume its the former rather than the latter.

Stefanie Beninato

[thumbup]

Godfrey Enjady

👍🏼

Mike Johnson

So even if you have to work Good Friday and Easter, Mich is in a big hurry to have her precious ditch weed.......[lol][lol]

Ernest Green

People generally don't work Sundays perhaps you're unfamiliar with the holiday? Jobs and economic legislation are usually well received among political watchers this ought to be no different.

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