New Mexico, New York Both Legalize Recreational Marijuana

Within about 24 hours in late March and early April, both New York and New Mexico joined the ranks of states where legal recreational marijuana is allowed. In a sign of the growing popularity of the movement, politicians in both states made cannabis legal without a voter referendum.

Leaders in both states tied legalization to the end of the War on Drugs. In New Mexico, two separate bills were passed by the Legislature, one legalizing recreational marijuana and the other expunging the arrest records of those who possessed cannabis for personal use.

“Those who have been harmed by this country’s failed war on drugs, disproportionately communities of color, will benefit from our state’s smart, fair and equitable new approach to past low-level convictions,” New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham told the New York Times. She vowed to sign both bills into law in early April.

New York Passes Legalization Bill

On March 31, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana in the Empire State. The new law will funnel about 40% of all marijuana tax revenue into communities hit hardest by the War on Drugs.

The state legislature passed the bill the day before. Some form of recreational marijuana legalization has been under consideration in New York since 2013. Much of the debate that had held up legalization centered on where to spend the tax revenue.

The social justice component of cannabis legalization has been a driving force across the country. But Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, the Democratic majority leader in the Assembly who sponsored the bill, said New York put the issue front and center.

“Unlike any other state in America, this legislation is intentional about equity,” she said, according to the Times. “Equity is not a second thought, it’s the first one, and it needs to be, because the people who paid the price for this War on Drugs have lost so much.”

Some parts of the law became effective immediately. They include the right for individuals to possess up to three ounces of cannabis for recreational purposes or 24 grams of concentrated forms such as oils. Recreational sales, which are expected to generate $350 million in tax revenue, will not begin until lawmakers hammer out the details of the legal framework.

New Mexico Sales to Begin by Spring 2022

In New Mexico, lawmakers expect the sale of cannabis to begin by April 2022 at the latest. State officials anticipated about $20 million in sales taxes in 2023.

The New Mexico law allows those 21 and older to possess two ounces of marijuana, as well as grow six plants at home. The sales tax will start at 12% before increasing to 18 percent.

On her Twitter account, Lujan Grisham said: “This important legislation accompanies the legalization of cannabis and will ensure that New Mexico ends the harmful long-term impacts of cannabis conviction records, enabling New Mexicans to build better futures.”

New Mexico and New York join a growing list of states that allow recreational use. They include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York  Oregon, Vermont and Washington. The District of Columbia also has legalized recreational marijuana, as have the U.S. territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.

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