The governor of New Mexico has approved a bill to fulfill a key goal of the state’s marijuana legalization law by facilitating automatic expungements for prior cannabis convictions.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signed the legislation from Reps. Andrea Romero (D) and Javier Martínez (D) late last week.
While the legislature did include automatic expungements and resentencing provisions in the state’s 2021 legalization law, the courts have experienced technical issues with processing certain cases.
The now-signed bill seeks to resolve those problems by allowing people to verify the status of their expungement and request expedited processing for charges that have yet to be handled by the courts.
“If an arrest or conviction involved cannabis and non-cannabis charges, a person may request expungement of eligible cannabis charges” through an administrative procedure that the courts would be required to develop under the legislation, the text says.
“The passage of HB 314 reflects that New Mexico’s priorities post-legalization are not just about collecting taxes, but also fulfilling the state’s commitment to ameliorate the harm caused by the prohibition of cannabis,” Gracie Johnson, policy director at the Last Prisoner Project (LPP), which worked on the legislation, told Marijuana Moment on Thursday.
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After the Administrative Office of the Courts requested assistance with implementation of automatic expungements, LPP sent a letter to the state Supreme Court emphasizing that “the solution cannot be to put the onus back on the individual to request relief.”
“To begin to right the wrongs of prohibition and make legalization accessible to all residents, the onus must remain on the New Mexican government to remove these records, so that your deserving residents may begin to rebuild their lives,” the organization said.
New Mexico’s adult-use marijuana market launched this time last year, and the governor recently marked the occasion by touting the more than $300 million in sales that the state has seen, as well as the thousands of jobs the cannabis industry has created.
Lujan Grisham didn’t say whether she participated in the market in its first year by making any purchases, but she didn’t rule it out last year during a visit to a cannabis retailer on opening day.
Separately, New Mexico lawmakers recently advanced a bill to create a state body that would study the possibility of launching a psilocybin therapy program for patients with certain mental health conditions who could benefit from using the psychedelic.
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Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.