Effective June 30 and July 1, two major changes in New Mexico law are now reality:
1. The legalization and retail sales of recreational cannabis.
2. Expanded liquor license availability.
LEGALIZATION OF RECREATIONAL CANNIBUS
On June 29, 2021, the New Mexico Cannabis Regulation Act became law in New Mexico. It makes New Mexico the 18th state to legalize recreational marijuana. Personal possession and use are now legal throughout the state.
The state law allows people 21 years or older to buy, possess and use marijuana outside the home of up to 2 ounces of marijuana. People will be able to buy no more than 2 ounces of cannabis or 800 milligrams of edible cannabis. There are also limits on extracts. If a person is found with more than 2 but less than 8 ounces of cannabis, 16 grams of cannabis extract, and more than 800 milligrams of edible cannabis in public, you can be charge with a misdemeanor under the new law.
Additionally, a person can legally possess more than 2 ounces inside their home with the caveat that it “must not be visible from a public place.” I guess that means do not leave your stash on top of the coffee table in front of the living room window. As for smoking a joint, you are not allowed to smoke in public places under the new law.
At your home, you can now grow cannabis under the new law but with a few limitations. A person can grow up to 12 plants within their home without a permit. (The second bathroom with the sun lamps is a go.) However, you cannot sell your home-grown stuff or operate like a business as a dealer anymore. Growing more plants or selling cannabis products without a license is a fourth-degree felony with a basic sentence of 18 months upon conviction.
Adults under the age of 21 are not allowed to possess cannabis. If you are under 21 and still in school do not take it to your middle school or high school. Doing so could lead to a mandatory four-hour educational program or 4 hours of community service.
The new law prohibits law enforcement from stopping or detaining a person solely because of the smell of cannabis. However, the law does not apply to people when an officer suspects someone might be using a vehicle under the influence and operating a vehicle.
RETAIL SALES OF RECREATIONAL CANNABIS
While the Cannabis Regulation Act is now in effect, retail sale of cannabis has yet to begin. The law provides that sales will start no later than April 1, 2022.
When it comes to the recreational cannabis industry, it will be heavily regulated by the state. The state will regulate all sellers and there will be no limits on the number of licenses issued. This is a dramatic departure from the limited number of licenses available in liquor licenses which have a cap based upon population. There will be a cap on the number of plants sellers can grow. Households would be permitted to grow up to 12 mature plants for personal use. Under the state law, cannabis establishments can also offer on-site consumption in certain circumstances.
The New Mexico Cannabis Control Division is in charge of making statewide rules and regulations for the new industry. On Tuesday, May 26, it was reported that the first proposed rules dealing primarily with marijuana producer license and plant fees were released. The link to the proposed regulations is here:
The state will issue licenses for “cannabis consumption areas” but until then cannabis use is restricted to private property. Anyone who breaks this law is subject to a $50 civil penalty.
The first proposed state regulations deal with marijuana producer license and plant fees. The drafted sets the cost of both producer and retailer licenses at $2,500 annually. Licenses for cannabis consumption areas, or designated places where adults can smoke, eat or drink cannabis products, would cost $2,500 annually under the draft rule. The state regulations must be adopted in order to meet the specific deadlines for implementing the law. The deadlines for the regulations under the state law are as follows:
No later than September 1: Start accepting and processing license applications from producers.
No later than Jan. 1, 2022: Start issuing licenses and server permits; begin training and education programs.
No later than April 1, 2022: Begin retail sales of recreational cannabis.
Links to news sources are here:
A link to a related blog article is here:
ABQ CITY COUNCIL ENACTS LIMITED ZONING RESTRICTIONS
A major highlight of the enacted legislation is that local jurisdictions, city and counties, cannot opt out of commercial sales, but can establish restrictions on operating hours and locations. The legislation gives local governments, city and county governments, limited authority to determine where cannabis dispensaries can be located.
The state’s counties do not have the authority to be able to prohibit cannabis sales nor prohibit the licensing of stores. In other words, local zoning law and regulations will able to be used to control the number of stores in an area where they the stores could be located. This is identical to zoning restrictions placed on retail stores that sell pornography.
On June 17, 2021, the Albuquerque City Council held a special council meeting to offer amendments to the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) that establishes the rules to regulate the recreational cannabis industry. The council approved amendments to the IDO to govern how newly legalized recreational cannabis market can operate in the city. Those zoning restrictions regulations include setting a distance of 600 feet between marijuana retailers unless the operator succeeds with a conditional use application that requires a public hearing before a city hearing officer and subject to appeal.
One major proposal Mayor Keller wanted was to strictly prohibit retail sales of recreational sale of cannabis from main street corridors such as Central Avenue. The council voted eight to one against the amendment.
The council also vote “NO” to implement a proposed rule from Mayor Tim Keller’s administration to keep cannabis retailers from opening new shops within 1,000 feet of each other or “adult entertainment” or “adult retail” operations. The council also voted NO on a ban on cannabis shops within 300 feet of religious institutions which was sponsored by City Council President Cynthia Borrego.
The council enacted separate standards for cannabis “microbusiness” licensees, giving them more latitude when it comes to locations.
A link to a related blog article is here: Links to news sources are here:
LIQUOR LICENSE REFORM
On July 1, House Bill 255, enacted in March by the New Mexico legislature, became effective. The sweeping and dramatic changes to the liquor laws was a bipartisan effort, highly contested by many in the liquor industry. It passed passed on a 41-27 vote in the New Mexico House and 29-11 in the New Mexico Senate.
The new law is the most dramatic change in liquor licensing law in 50 years. Among the major highlights of the law include:
The changes to the liquor control act allow for home delivery of alcoholic beverages by restaurants and grocery stores once delivery permits are issued later this year. Those permits will be issued sometime in August or September. The home delivery of alcoholic drinks will have restrictions. Restaurants will be limited to delivering alcohol with $10 of food. Large stores in some communities will only be allowed to deliver beer and wine, not spirits. Delivery to certain locations such as college dorms will be banned. There will also be requirements to check identification where deliveries are made to the door to keep drinks from going to underage buyers. The NM Alcoholic Beverage Control Division is accepting written public comment on proposed regulations to govern home delivery of drinks.
Delivery permits will not be issued until
NO MINITURES ALLOWED
Changes to the liquor control act prohibits the sale of hard liquor miniatures at liquor stores. Convenience stores and liquor stores can no longer sell individual 3-ounce miniatures for off-site consumption. However, miniatures can still be sold on golf courses, at hotel minibars or other locations where customers can legally drink them. Proposed rules under consideration include an exception for the sale of a “party package” of miniature’s bundled together by the manufacturer and intended for sale as one unit, similar to six packs of beer.
SUNDAY SALES ALLOWED
For many decades, New Mexico prohibited Sunday alcohol sales entirely. New Mexico then banned on-premise alcohol sales before 11 a.m. and package sales by a store before noon on Sunday. Now alcohol service can generally begin at 7 a.m., as with any other day of the week.
CHEAPER LIQUOR LICENSES TO BE MADE AVAILABLE
The changes to the liquor control act create a tier system for cheaper licenses to be issued intended to allow more restaurants to serve spirits and cocktails, not just beer and wine.
Under the new law, new liquor license options will be available to all restaurants. Up until now, restaurants were limited to just beer and wine sales unless they owned a more expensive “dispensers license” allowing the sale of all liquor. Dispenser licenses are capped in number based on population. Dispensers’ licenses are sold or subleased and cost as low as $350,000 and many times as high as $1 million placing them out of the reach of small, local business owners.
The NM Alcoholic Beverage Control Division is accepting applications for a $10,000 license designed for restaurants, allowing the sale of liquor and cocktails. Another license will be made available if the restaurant decides to sell locally distilled liquor, such as gin and vodka, rather than national brands, and that license will be less than $10,000. Restaurants seeking a Class B license, which expands existing beer and wine licenses to include spirits, must to wait until their applications are approved.
It was the owners of the highly expensive “dispensers licenses” that opposed vigorously the new licenses. They argued the new licenses would reduce significantly the value of their licenses that they have paid hundreds of thousands for destroying their investment. For decades, the New Mexico liquor lobby has been one of the most powerful lobbies in the state, and the passage of the new laws ends it dominate influence over the legislature.
Changes to the liquor control act also contain new reciprocity rules for local breweries and wineries. In addition to selling local beer they will be able to serve locally distilled spirits, if they choose. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Division said they won’t begin accepting applications for that until after a public hearing on agency rulemaking is held on July 26 to address some aspects of the law.
Links to news sources are here:
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The legalization of recreational cannabis as well as the sweeping changes to the New Mexico Liquor Control Act have been years, some would say decades, in the making.
ELECTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES
For a number of years, bills to legalize recreational cannabis went absolutely nowhere, especially in the NM Senate. This was in in large part to 4 conservative Democrats forming a coalition with Republican Senators to oppose all the legislation. The 4 conservative incumbent Democrats were ousted by progressive challengers in 2020 and 3 progressive Democrats went on to win election to the Senate. Long time serving Democrats Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith, Senate President Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, Clemente Sanchez of Grants and Senator Gabe Ramos of Silver City were all defeated in the June primary. With the sure passage of time, many long serving conservative legislators in the house are no longer serving either because of retiring or being ousted by Democrats. It was not until they were gone was the draconian 1960′ state law outlawing abortions was repealed.
For decades, the New Mexico liquor lobby has been one of the most powerful lobbies in the state. The passage of the liquor control reform laws ends the dominate influence, some would say a strangle hold, over the New Mexico legislature.
LEGALIZATION OF RECREATIONAL CANNIBUS
Advocates of recreational legalization argue it will generate at least 13,000 jobs and millions of dollars for the economy. Rodriguez, also told lawmakers that legalizing recreational marijuana will generate up to $800 million a year, a $200 million increase from the last years estimate of $600 million. Rodriguez had this to say:
“It’s going to change New Mexico and ways we can’t imagine. … I think we will be a powerhouse, not only within the state, but we have the potential of being a powerhouse not only in this country, but you’d be surprised, we have the ability to also compete internationally.”
LIQUOR LICENSE REFORM
There is little doubt that the changes to the liquor laws will promote the creation of new businesses by lowering the cost of starting a restaurant serving more than just beer and wine . Further, there are a few counties in New Mexico, that do not have a single establishment with a dispenser license. The price of the new licenses should encourage in more ways than one economic development
Change is never easy, especially for the hard core conservative moralists. Whether you like it or not the State Of New Mexico is at the cusp of a totally new day. Within in a few short months, and if your over 21, you will be able to make a home deliver order of beer and pizza from the Santa Fe Susana Martinez Pizzeria and while you wait for your pizza, light up a joint of “New Mexico Gold” or “Johnson and White’s Good Shit” all in the comfort of your home.