Marijuana bill advances out of Judiciary Committee


Legislation to legalize marijuana sales in New Mexico cleared the New Mexico Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, March 17, despite the objections of Chairman Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, who voted with Republicans on the committee in opposing the bill.

House Bill 12 now moves to the Senate calendar, with three days left in the session. It has the strong support of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, and is likely to be a top priority in the final days.

“New Mexico has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to establish a multi-million-dollar industry with a framework that is right for our state,” said sponsor Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque. “That’s why so much work has gone into ensuring that the economic benefits will be equitably distributed, and why we’ve thought hard about the best ways to curb the illicit drug trade while undoing some of the damage that the failed war on drugs has had on our communities.”

Loan compromise

Members of the New Mexico House Democratic caucus have proposed a compromise on a bill to reduce annual percent rates (APR) on small loans.

Senate Bill 66, as originally introduced, would have reduced the APR from 175 percent to 36 percent. The bill was amended in the House Judiciary Committee to increase the minimum to 99 percent. Under the compromise, the rate will remain at 99 percent for loans up to $1,000; but will drop to 36 percent for loans of more than that.

Sen. Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, was the sponsor of the Senate bill and was part of the group that created the compromise.

Sunshine bill

Legislation to bring transparency to the capital outlay process, in which each legislator is able to allocate funds for infrastructure projects, passed the Senate unanimously Wednesday.

House Bill 55 would require a new searchable database to be posted online with all projects, the amount devoted to each project by each legislator and projects vetoed by the governor. Under the current system, lawmakers are not required to reveal how they spend their capital outlay money.

Sen Ron Griggs, R-Alamogordo, said he has opposed similar legislation in the past because of concerns that the information would be used against incumbents in future elections. But when it became clear that the bill had unanimous support, he voted for it.

Walter Rubel can be reached at waltrubel@gmail.com