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New Mexico Governor Signs Bill to Legalize Recreational Marijuana

FILE - Marijuana equipment lines a window at the Minerva medical cannabis dispensary in Santa Fe, New Mexico, June 11, 2019.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation Monday legalizing recreational marijuana use within months and kicking off sales next year, making it the seventh state since November to put an end to pot prohibition.

The governor, a Democrat, has supported marijuana reform as a way to create jobs and shore up state revenue.

New Mexico voters ousted ardent opponents of legalization from the state Senate in the 2020 Democratic primary, opening the way for recreational marijuana.

The governor called a special legislative session to tackle the issue in late March after legalization efforts faltered.

Legislators rallied behind a legalization framework from state Representative Javier Martinez of Albuquerque that provides automated procedures for expunging past pot convictions.

The bill gives the governor a strong hand in oversight of recreational marijuana through her appointed superintendent of the Regulation and Licensing Department.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham at a news conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico, April 5, 2019.
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham at a news conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico, April 5, 2019.

Agency Superintendent Linda Trujillo said people age 21 and over will be allowed to start growing marijuana at home and possess up to 56 grams (2 ounces) of marijuana outside their homes starting on June 29.

Recreational cannabis sales start by April 1 next year at state-licensed dispensaries.

Regulators can put a cap on marijuana cultivation quantities and impose a per-plant state fee of up to $50 a year.

Some of the state's medical marijuana producers lobbied for market controls amid concerns that marijuana prices might plummet with the legalization of recreational marijuana, undermining investments and employment.

Home marijuana growers will be allowed to grow up to six plants per person, or 12 per household. The scent of marijuana will no longer be grounds for police seizures.

Local governments can't prohibit marijuana businesses from setting up shop. They can have a say through zoning about the location and hours of operation.

Medical marijuana dispensaries already are staking out territory in small towns near the border with Texas — a major potential market for marijuana tourism. It remains illegal to transport marijuana across state lines.

Challenges await state regulators as they prepare to issue a variety of marijuana business licenses by the start of 2022 to enterprises such as quality testing labs; industrial operations that grow, refine, package and sell cannabis products; and craft marijuana microbusinesses that grow only up to 200 plants.

Rules are also due by the start of 2022 on product safety, minimum qualifications for a marijuana business license, and standards for vetting and training "cannabis servers," who must hold a state permit and be 21 or older.