cloudyn.png
Thursday January 23rd, 2020 10:00PM

New Mexico bill would create first state-run pot shops in US

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico would become the first U.S. state to set up its own government-operated marijuana stores and subsidize medical cannabis for the poor under a bill brokered between Republicans and Democrats, as a new wave of states weighs legislation that would legalize recreational sales and consumption.

The idea for state-run pot shops comes from a trio of GOP state senators who broke with local Republican Party orthodoxy to embrace legal marijuana with a decidedly big-government approach that would have the state directly oversee most sales — and require that marijuana consumers carry receipts of purchase or confront penalties.

Those provisions were sown into Democrat-sponsored legislation that contains currents of social justice, including a provision to subsidize medical cannabis for poor people with "debilitating medical conditions" who might not otherwise be able to afford treatment. Tax dollars from recreational marijuana sales would fund employment and counseling programs in communities "disproportionately affected by past federal and state drug policies," including training to enter the marijuana sector.

Carly Wolf, state policies coordinator at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, says the provisions for state-run stores and medical cannabis subsidization both would be new to the United States, as New Mexico seeks to become the first state to set up a complete regulatory framework through legislation.

Ten states and Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana — all by ballot initiative except Vermont, which allowed for personal use and growing but is still debating whether to authorize commercial production and sales.

Other legislative efforts to legalize recreational marijuana are underway in New York and New Jersey, while a bill to legalize recreational cannabis in Democrat-dominated Hawaii fizzled last week.

In New Mexico, a coterie of powerful conservative Democrats still stands in the way of a Senate floor vote on legalization.

"It's not a priority," said Democratic Sen. John Arthur Smith of Deming, who will decide whether the marijuana bill is heard by the Senate Finance Committee, a final hurdle before a Senate vote. Smith does not favor legalization and worries about harmful effects of marijuana on the brain.

Sen. Peter Wirth, the chamber's Democratic majority leader, believes legalization would prevail in a floor vote. He said support from a contingent of Senate Republicans has redrawn the political battle on marijuana along generational lines rather than partisan affiliation.

Wirth also called the concept of state-run pot shops — that would sell marijuana on consignment without owning or producing it — a political game changer that allays anxiety about welcoming the nation's rollicking, multibillion-dollar marijuana industry. In addition, marijuana production licenses would come with an in-state residency requirement of two years.

"It puts some parameters around it," Wirth said. "The state can monitor what it looks like and how it expands."

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has expressed guarded support for recreational marijuana — provided the legislation addresses concerns about child access, impaired driving, workplace safety and safeguarding the state's existing marijuana market for medical patients.

"If the Legislature can check those boxes, bring it on," Nora Sackett, a spokeswoman for Lujan Grisham, said in an email.

New Mexico has watched neighboring Colorado's pioneering decision to legalize and tax marijuana with a mixture of apprehension and envy, as lawmakers in Santa Fe struggle to find stable sources of tax revenue to improve public education and raise teacher salaries. The judiciary is threatening to intervene in school funding decisions, citing inadequate educational opportunities for children from poor and minority families.

New Mexico would levy a 17 percent tax on recreational marijuana sales and allow possession of up to 1 ounce (28 grams). Local governments can opt out, forgoing tax proceeds in the process. State tax proceeds would fund detection technologies and training for police to identify impaired drivers. Businesses could maintain "zero-tolerance" policies for drug testing as a condition of employment.

Sponsors say the bill would safeguard New Mexico's medical marijuana program by removing taxes on medical pot to keep down prices and ensure its 70,000 participants don't flock to the recreational market. At least four other states forgo taxes on medical marijuana.

New Mexico also would authorize marijuana consumption "lounges" for smoking and vaping — or eating any number of marijuana-infused confections and foods — though the bill offers few details on regulatory oversight.

Republican Sen. Cliff Pirtle, a dairy farmer from Roswell, in a conservative political stronghold of the state, said state-run stores can prevent the proliferation of pot shops that some other states have witnessed, and provide retail shelf space at a low cost to fledgling marijuana producers.

"You drive through Anonito and you used to not even have a gas station, and now it has four marijuana shops," said Pirtle, describing a Colorado town of 750 residents near the New Mexico state line. "I know in my district that's not what they want downtown to look like, so this would help."

A number of U.S. states retain a monopoly on liquor sales through state-operated stores — a regulatory option that dates back to prohibition. Several provinces in Canada, which legalized marijuana last year, sell cannabis exclusively through government-run retail and online stores.

In New Mexico, some private dispensaries would be allowed in remote areas at least 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the nearest state-run pot shop.

Marijuana commercialization opponent Luke Niforatos, senior policy adviser to Smart Approaches to Marijuana, lobbied individual legislators Tuesday to reject the bill.

"Is this really the job of government, to make this more available?" he said.

State-run stores are among a host of provisions that respond to experiences in states with voter-approved legalization, where regulations were sometimes forged by lawmakers after the fact, whether they sought legalization or not.

House Democrats in New Mexico, where ballot initiatives aren't available, say they spent years exploring policies and tax provisions for a bill that now includes funding for research on the health effect of legalization.

"One of the benefits of doing it through the legislative process is you just jump into the nuanced details," said Emily Kaltenbach, state director of the nonpartisan Drug Policy Alliance that favors decriminalization. "You iron those out."

In negotiations over a final bill, local governments gained a greater share of tax proceeds to spend on anything from roads to counseling for drug addiction, and Republicans held on to prohibitions on homegrown recreational marijuana.

The measure's opponents include the local Roman Catholic diocese, New Mexico's primary chamber of commerce and many medical marijuana companies that are scrambling to decipher what the future would hold with an unlimited number of licensed commercial producers.

"The price of cannabis is going to go down, which is good for the patient," said Erik Briones, who owns a business that produces and sells about $5 million worth of medical marijuana products a year. "But you still have to stay in business. We're the ones that build this thing. We need some protection."

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Business, AP Business - Economy, AP Business - Small Business
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Venezuelan government targets Guaido as some power returns
Venezuelan officials say power outages are easing in some areas, while Venezuela's chief prosecutor says opposition leader Juan Guaido is being investigated for allegedly sabotaging the national power grid, whose collapse has inflicted misery on millions
10:19PM ( 12 minutes ago )
New Mexico bill would create first state-run pot shops in US
New Mexico would become the first U.S. state with its own government-operated marijuana stores under a bill brokered between Democratic and Republican legislators.
10:13PM ( 17 minutes ago )
Pilots have reported issues in US with new Boeing jet
Pilots of at least 2 US flights have complained that their new Boeing jet pointed nose-down automatically
10:03PM ( 28 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Bribery scandal exposes sports side door to admissions
Bribery scandal exposes sports side door to college admissions
9:20PM ( 1 hour ago )
SAT, ACT college test makers defend integrity amid scandal
Court papers detail how college admissions test provisions aimed at helping students with disabilities were exploited to enable cheating in what is being described as the biggest college admissions scandal ever prosecuted by federal authorities
9:00PM ( 1 hour ago )
Jet that crashed in Ethiopia grounded in much of the world
Much of the world, including the entire European Union, has grounded the Boeing jetliner involved in the Ethiopian Airlines crash or banned it from their airspace
8:45PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
New Pentagon transgender rule sets limits for troops
The Defense Department has approved a new policy that will largely bar transgender troops and military recruits from transitioning to another sex
9:01PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP sources: O'Rourke to make multiple stops in leadoff Iowa
Texas Democrat Beto O'Rourke is planning a series of stops in Iowa beginning Thursday as he nears an announcement on a 2020 White House bid
8:45PM ( 1 hour ago )
Senate rejection of Trump border emergency no longer certain
The White House and Republican senators are seeking a compromise to limit future presidents' powers to unilaterally declare national emergencies
8:19PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
White House tries to avert Senate defeat on border emergency
The White House is trying to prevent a high-profile congressional rejection of President Donald Trump's declaration of an emergency at the southwest border, or at least reduce the number of Republican senators voting against him
6:15PM ( 4 hours ago )
Despite differences, Dems stick with Pelosi on impeachment
Democrats are largely lining up behind House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her wait-and-see strategy on any impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
5:52PM ( 4 hours ago )
The Latest: Brexit booster Farage expects yearlong delay
Nigel Farage, the British politician who became the public face of anti-European Union sentiment in the run-up to a 2016 Brexit referendum, thinks the country's departure date could be pushed back by a year
5:22PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Facebook's messaging ambitions amount to much more than chat
Facebook, already the leader in enabling you to share photos, videos and links, now wants to be a force in messaging, commerce, payments and just about everything else you do online
8:08PM ( 2 hours ago )
Honda recalls 1.2M more vehicles with dangerous air bags
Honda is recalling about 1.2 million vehicles in North and Central America because their Takata air bag inflators can explode and send shrapnel into the vehicle interiors
7:42PM ( 2 hours ago )
Mo' Money: NFL teams keep the dollars flowing to free agents
On the second day of spending before the first real day of free agency, the dollars kept flowing
7:09PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Business
US sends mixed messages on potential for force in Venezuela
Mixed messages from Trump administration on Venezuela seen as helping Maduro
3:46PM ( 6 hours ago )
US stocks move higher, led by technology and health stocks
Technology and health care companies led U.S. stocks modestly higher in afternoon trading, extending the market's solid gains from a day earlier
3:38PM ( 6 hours ago )
New Mexico weighs America's first government-run pot shops
New Mexico lawmakers are considering a bill that would make their state the first to set up government-operated marijuana stores and to subsidize medical cannabis for the poor.
2:13PM ( 8 hours ago )
AP Business - Economy
California man learns he's dying from doctor on robot video
A California family is devastated that their 78-year-old relative was told that he didn't have long to live by a doctor appearing on a robot's video screen
8:40PM ( 4 days ago )
Bankrupt California utility wants to give $235M in bonuses
Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. is seeking a judge's approval to pay $235 million in bonuses to thousands of employees despite the California utility's bankruptcy
2:46PM ( 5 days ago )
US judge eases wildfire safety plan for California utility
A U.S. judge in San Francisco overseeing a criminal case against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. is scaling back his proposals to prevent the utility's equipment from causing more wildfires
7:00PM ( 6 days ago )
AP Business - Small Business
Venezuelan government targets Guaido as some power returns
Venezuelan officials say power outages are easing in some areas, while Venezuela's chief prosecutor says opposition leader Juan Guaido is being investigated for allegedly sabotaging the national power grid, whose collapse has inflicted misery on millions
10:19PM ( 12 minutes ago )
Pilots have reported issues in US with new Boeing jet
Pilots of at least 2 US flights have complained that their new Boeing jet pointed nose-down automatically
10:03PM ( 28 minutes ago )
Malkin picks up 1,000th point, Pens rally by Caps 5-3
Sidney Crosby scores twice as Pittsburgh Penguins edge Washington Capitals 5-3
10:01PM ( 30 minutes ago )
Huffman and Loughlin charges shatter actresses' clean images
Charges in college bribery scandal against actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin shatter the TV actresses' clean images
9:58PM ( 33 minutes ago )
2 ex-cops arrested in killing of black Brazilian politician
Brazilian authorities have arrested two former police officers in the killing of a Rio de Janeiro city councilwoman, a brazen assassination that shocked the many Brazilians and sparked protests in several countries
9:58PM ( 33 minutes ago )