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Arizona’s Neighbor May Create State-Run Recreational Dispensaries

NM Cannabis Law

By Morgan Lee, Associated Press

(AP) — Arizona’s neighbor may soon become the first state in the country to have its own government-operated marijuana dispensaries and subsidized medical marijuana for the poor under a new bill brokered between New Mexico’s Republicans and Democrats.

The idea for state-run pot shops in New Mexico came from a trio of GOP state senators who broke with local Republican Party orthodoxy to embrace legal marijuana with a decidedly big-government approach that would have the state directly oversee most sales — and require that marijuana consumers carry receipts of purchase or confront penalties.

Those provisions were sown into Democrat-sponsored legislation that contains currents of social justice, including a provision to subsidize medical cannabis for poor people with “debilitating medical conditions” who might not otherwise be able to afford treatment.

Tax dollars from recreational marijuana sales would fund employment and counseling programs in communities “disproportionately affected by past federal and state drug policies,” including training to enter the marijuana sector.

New Mexico would levy a 17% tax on recreational marijuana sales at dispensaries and allow possession of up to 1 ounce (28 grams). Local governments can opt out, forgoing tax proceeds in the process. State tax proceeds would fund detection technologies and training for police to identify impaired drivers. Businesses could maintain “zero-tolerance” policies for drug testing as a condition of employment.

Sponsors say the bill would safeguard New Mexico’s medical marijuana program by removing taxes on medical pot to keep down prices and ensure its 70,000 participants don’t flock to the recreational market. At least four other states forgo taxes on medical marijuana.

New Mexico also would authorize marijuana consumption “lounges” for smoking and vaping — or eating any number of marijuana-infused confections and foods — though the bill offers few details on regulatory oversight.

AP Photo: Mark Thiessen

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