Andoni Garrote, J.D.
Deputy District Attorney
Effective June 29, 2021, marijuana has been legalized in the State of New Mexico, but what exactly does that mean? This is a summary of the legislation.
On April 12, 2021, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law New Mexico’s H.B. 2. the Cannabis Regulation Act. This Act regulates and legalizes the possession and use of cannabis for adults twenty-one years of age and older. Although marijuana has been legalized, this does not mean that anything goes; some activities are still regulated under the new law. Currently, people cannot legally smoke cannabis in public areas except in “cannabis consumption areas”.
POSSESSION AND LIMITS
A person twenty-one years of age or older who possesses between two and eight ounces of cannabis (For example, 2oz equals 56 grams or 56 pre-rolled joints), more than sixteen grams (2 oz.) of cannabis extract, or more than eight hundred milligrams of edible cannabis (think 80 gummies) can be charged with a misdemeanor. Furthermore, anyone in possession of over 8 oz. of cannabis, sixty-four grams of cannabis extract, or three thousand two hundred milligrams of edible cannabis can be charged with a fourth-degree felony.
WHAT IS THE BOTTOM LINE?
Smoking cannabis in public areas is not allowed.
Although possessing and using marijuana is legal, the amount of marijuana, its extract and edibles an individual can have on their person in public, at one time, is still restricted.
What does this mean? It means that at home you can have more than two ounces of cannabis, its extracts and edibles, if they are not visible from a public place.
At home, you are allowed to grow six plants for personal use (12 per household total) without a license. Growing more than the allowed number in your home can lead to a penalty assessment. Additionally, having more than twelve cannabis plants is a fourth -degree felony. In short, individuals can grow marijuana in their home gardens if they do not grow more than the allowed number of plants at any one time.
The Act also establishes the regulation of the manufacturing of cannabis extract without a license. It is unlawful for a person to manufacture cannabis extract without a license unless the person produces and manufactures cannabis extract from homegrown cannabis using nonvolatile solvents, alcohol or carbon, or no solvents for personal use only. To do otherwise is a violation which can result in the charge of a fourth-degree felony.
WHAT ABOUT SALES OF MARIJUANA PRODUCTS?
Under the new law, a person eighteen years of age or older who intentionally sells cannabis products without a license can be charged with a misdemeanor. However, if an individual attempts to sell cannabis products from an area open to the public under the false pretense that they are operating as a licensed dispensary that would constitute a violation of the law resulting in the possibility of a fourth-degree felony charge. In other words, do not sell cannabis products if you are not in fact operating as a licensed dispenser.
Although cannabis is now legal, the actual commercial sale of marijuana is not yet in effect other than to those who possess medical cannabis cards. The Act states that the wide scale commercial sale of cannabis will take place no later than April 1, 2022. Something to point out is that the New Mexico legislature in addition to passing a law legalizing cannabis, also passed bill, S.B No.2 which deals with the expungement of criminal convictions and arrest records for those that had priors for certain cannabis offenses.
WHAT IS THE STANCE OF THE 13TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT ATTORNEY’S OFFICE?
How will the Cannabis Regulation Act affect the way the 13th Judicial District Attorney’s Office prosecutes cases? The truth is that this office has always done its best to be mindful when it comes to cannabis charges and the impact criminalization has had on certain communities, especially people of color. Prosecution in this District will not look much different with the implementation of this new law because while the law is credited as legalizing cannabis, there are still some actions that are considered crimes which this office will continue to take seriously. For example, drug trafficking is a serious offense that affects the community. Frequently we see acts of violence stemming from the involvement in drugs and drug trafficking. However, despite this, our Office also recognizes and supports the need for a change in regulation when it comes to cannabis and the historically disproportionate ways in which racial and class biases were played out with the former criminalization and regulation of cannabis.
In this office, we have long recognized the impact that drugs can have on our community and renew our dedication to addressing the issues that drugs bring to it. We also renew our dedication to being mindful in the prosecution of crimes and recognizing the benefits of treatment and rehabilitation in hopes of helping someone turn their life around and become a contributing member of society. Ultimately, we recognize the need for this Act and dedicate ourselves to upholding the laws of our state just as we have always done.