By Morgan Lee
New Mexico would become the first U.S. state to set up its own government-operated marijuana stores and subsidize medical cannabis for the poor under a bill brokered between Republicans and Democrats, as a new wave of states weighs legislation that would legalize recreational sales and consumption.
The idea for state-run pot shops comes 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.
Carly Wolf, state policies coordinator at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, says the provisions for state-run stores and medical cannabis subsidization both would be new to the United States, as New Mexico seeks to become the first state to set up a complete regulatory framework through legislation.