The history of cannabis in New Mexico is a complex and multifaceted story that spans centuries. The use of cannabis in the region has cultural, economic, and legal implications that have evolved over time. Here’s an overview:
Early Indigenous Use: Cannabis has been used by indigenous populations in what is now New Mexico for medicinal, spiritual, and practical purposes for centuries. Native American tribes like the Pueblo, Apache, and Navajo have historical records of using cannabis for various purposes.
Spanish Colonization: In the 16th century, Spanish explorers and settlers brought cannabis to New Mexico as part of their colonization efforts. The plant’s fibers were used to make ropes, textiles, and other products.
Territorial Period: New Mexico became a U.S. territory in 1850, and during this time, cannabis was still primarily used for industrial purposes. There were no specific laws against its use.
Early 20th Century: As cannabis began to be associated with Mexican immigrants and Mexican culture, attitudes toward the plant started to change. In the early 1920s, anti-cannabis sentiment grew, partly due to racial and cultural biases, leading to the first efforts to regulate its use.
1937 Marihuana Tax Act: The federal Marihuana Tax Act was passed, effectively criminalizing the possession and sale of cannabis across the United States, including New Mexico. This marked a turning point in the legal status of cannabis.
1978: New Mexico was one of the first states to pass legislation allowing for medical cannabis use. In 1978, the state enacted the Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Act, which permitted the use of cannabis for medical purposes through a federally-approved research program.
2007 Compassionate Use: Medical use was legalized in 2007 through a bill signed by Governor Bill Richardson. The bill titled Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act permits persons with debilitating medical conditions to alleviate their symptoms by using cannabis.
2019: The bill makes changes to the medical cannabis program. The bill expands the patient’s eligibility for medical cannabis, including new qualifying medical conditions, employee protection, and revised penalties for medical cannabis use. The bill also creates protection for employees using medical cannabis. Governor Lujan Grisham also signed Senate Bill 323. The bill aims to decrease the penalties for the possession of cannabis and cannabis paraphernalia.
2020 House Bill 160: House Bill 160 came into effect. The act relates to regulating cannabis in New Mexico. It creates a cannabis tax act for recreational cannabis, establishes the Cannabis Control Division, establishes subsidies for the medical cannabis program, and creates the cannabis regulation fund.
Cannabis Regulation Act: The governor signed HB2 into law, known as the Cannabis Regulation Act in 2021. In 2021, New Mexico became the 18th state to legalize adult-use cannabis and the fifth to do so through the legislative process rather than by voter initiative. The law officially went into effect on June 29, 2021. Adults can legally possess up to two ounces of cannabis and cultivate up to six mature plants. Adult-use cannabis sales officially began in New Mexico on Friday, April 1, 2022, New Mexicans 21 and older can make retail purchases of cannabis at dispensaries across the state.