You Can Now Grow and Possess Weed in New Mexico

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New Mexico’s adult residents can now legally possess, use and grow recreational cannabis starting Tuesday. As the law takes effect, each adult will be allowed to grow six plants or up to 12 in a household with more than one adult.

Under the Cannabis Regulation Act (CRA), legalization of personal use of cannabis comes months ahead of the complete formation of the legal industry that will eventually entail production and sales of recreational cannabis.

Purchasing and selling cannabis for adult use will not be legal until at least April 1, 2022.

Mind the gap

The gap between illicit sales and legal use is one of many unresolved issues in the state’s still-developing recreational cannabis industry.

Some legalization advocates say those who are eager for legal marijuana sales will turn to black markets in the meantime.

“We know that people are currently obtaining and using illegal cannabis, and that will continue for 10 months,” said Emily Kaltenbach, a state director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).

More to be resolved: equity

One nagging question is how the new law will help create equity, as lawmakers who backed it including Gov. Lujan Grisham, said it was intended to do.

While legalization has long been promoted as a way to diversify New Mexico’s economy, create jobs, encourage homegrown entrepreneurship and decriminalize possession of a plant that has resulted in the targeting of people of color, some worry the state's program is not on track to accomplish those goals.

Being able to possess and cultivate cannabis is a welcome step, Kaltenbach said, but there is still work to be done.

“We still have our work cut out for us to fully repair the damage that has been done as a result of prohibition, and that means advocating for equity and diversity in the new industry and coming back during the 2022 budget session to ensure funds are made available for critical reinvestment in the communities that have been most harmed,” she added.

One possible solution, Kaltenbach suggested, is for municipalities to develop their own funds to help local low-income residents and people of color get started in the business as a way of leveling the playing field with larger, more established operators.

Other advocates agree

Henry Jake Foreman, program director at the Albuquerque-based nonprofit New Mexico Community Capital, which works to help Native American entrepreneurs, pointed out that the new law offers no financial aid to Native New Mexicans, including farmers who could profit from the venture.

While working to raise funds and develop support systems to help Native farmers get started, Foreman – who is Native American – said his biggest concern is “we are going to see a lot of out-of-state people come into this space as well, and that’s a worry.”

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