The Unexplored ‘Revenue Enhancement’

forbidden flower

The special session drags on, with no final agreement between the Senate and House of Representatives on how to drain last year’s red ink, in addition to the massive budget deficit plaguing the current fiscal year.

Unfortunately, one piece of legislation that could raise new revenue is being ignored: HB 11.

Sponsored by Representatives Bill McCamley and Javier Martínez, the Cannabis Revenue and Freedom Act legalizes, regulates, and taxes marijuana for recreational use. Among other things, it makes possession of “more than one ounce of usable marijuana in a public place” illegal, prohibits the “use of marijuana while driving,” and allows local governments to “adopt reasonable time, place and manner regulations related to nuisance aspects of a licensed marijuana retailer’s business if the municipality or county makes specific findings that the business would cause adverse effects to occur.”

In the Foundation’s detailed plan for fixing New Mexico’s budget gap, we cite the Tax Foundation’s estimate that a 25 percent retail tax on recreational marijuana in the Land of Enchantment would yield annual revenue of $57 million. That’s not a silver-bullet solution to our deficits, but it would make a significant contribution.

HB 11 is big — 91 pages, printed from the web — but whether you’re liberal, conservative, libertarian, or anything else, it’s worth a look. With a majority of Americans favoring the legalization of marijuana, smart states (Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and our neighbor Colorado) have already gotten ahead of the inevitable, and enacted regulatory/taxing architectures. New Mexico should be the next early-adopter.