In the wake of a $600 million state budget shortfall last year, New Mexico depleted funding reserves and made severe funding cuts to public health, K-12 and higher education, state employee compensation and state agencies.
On Tuesday, Democratic State Representative Bill McCamley announced a bill to legalize recreational cannabis in the name of diversifying the New Mexico economy and replenishing state revenues.
While New Mexico is still facing a $67 million general fund shortfall, in Colorado the state department of revenue is averaging $140 million to $150 million per fiscal year in tax revenue from recreational marijuana.
That is revenue cities and counties in Colorado are investing in school facilities, scholarships and programs to assist the homeless.
New Mexico State Representative (D-33) Bill McCamley is proposing a bill to legalize recreational marijuana in New Mexico. McCamley said the sooner it can become a source of state revenue the better.
”It is either going to happen sooner or it is going to happen later and if it happens sooner we can realize the economic benefits now.” McCamley said
McCamley’s proposal would leverage a 15% direct state tax on legalized recreational marijuana, simplify the states existing medicinal marijuana program and legalize the industrialization and farming of hemp.
“All of these things create long term job growth and help New Mexico out of this downward spiral we have had economically.” McCamley said
The bill would have to pass the House and the Senate before then be signed into law by Republican Governor Susana Martinez. Martinez has voiced opposition to marijuana legalization. McCamley said a complementary bill by Democratic State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino of Albuquerque could put legalization on the ballot, leaving the decision up to voters. Though the vote wouldn’t take place until 2018.
“There is two different strategies here and which ever one works will be fine. We want to get it done!” McCamley said
According to a 2016 Albuquerque Journal poll, 61 percent of likely voters said they would support a proposal to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana for adults 21 and older, while 34 percent said they would oppose it.
Eight states and the District of Columbia have already passed legislation allowing for recreational use of cannabis.
McCamley said state legalization could be further complicated by the Trump administration appointment of Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. The Alabama Senator opposes legalization in any form.