After an exhausting 60 day full session has been completed, members of the New Mexico legislature could usually look forward to a lot of time off before the next 30 day session early in the following year. Not this year.
About an hour after the 2021 Legislative Session adjourned, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced she’d be calling the lawmakers back into a special session, probably in a couple of weeks. “It’s not really goodbye,” the governor said, “it’s take a rest and I’ll see you soon.”
Right now, the special session has one item on its agenda: legalization of marihuana for recreational use. Lujan Grisham has hinted she might add a few more, but not many, and all of them secondary to legal pot, which is for Democrats in New Mexico something close to the NBA All-Star Game Week Slam-Dunk Competition. Medical use of Marihuana has been legal in New Mexico since 2007, when Democrat Bill Richardson was governor. Today, the state’s medical cannabis program has more than 100,000 enrolled members. Richardson’s Republican successor Susana Martinez staved off full legalization for eight years, but, in 2018, Democrat Lujan Grisham ran promising progress on cannabis. It’s hasn’t been easy. After her first 60 day session as governor, in 2019, Lujan Grisham had won on decriminalization. Possession of up to a half-ounce of marijuana was knocked down to a civil offense punishable by a $50 fine. But she lost on recreational cannabis and lost again in the short session 2020.
The 2021 Legislature had some few faces, and several of the old faces no longer around had been opponents of legal marihuana. Many thought passage of recreational use of cannabis was a classic slam-dunk. Until it was rejected, at the rim, most visibly by Republican stalling to run out the legislature’s 60 day clock. The bill, passed by the House, and by two committees of the Senate, never came to a Senate vote. For about an hour, it looked like the governor and legal pot had lost again. But again, not this year, because the governor is convinced this time, her loss is truly a slam-dunk to turn to a win. Her confidence only starts from the premise that her position, for legalization, puts her among a substantial majority of New Mexico adults, or as she might call them, voters.
Andy Lyman is an Albuquerque based reporter. He previously covered the New Mexico’s legislative session for the New Mexico News Network and served as a reporter and host for numerous news outlets.