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The Land of Enchantment just got a little more enchanting as New Mexico has become the latest state to decriminalize marijuana, making the penalty for possession of small amounts a civil citation rather than a criminal conviction, beginning July 1, 2019.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a marijuana decriminalization bill April 3, 2019, decreasing the penalties for possessing up to a half-ounce, or 14.2 grams, of marijuana to a $50 fine. The legislation also will reduce penalties for possession of drug paraphernalia.  

New Mexico is now the 24th state to decriminalize marijuana, a small step toward recreational cannabis legalization, which Grisham has openly supported and called for during her tenure as governor.

The proposal, SB 323, was initially introduced by Democratic state Sen. Joseph Cervantes and approved by the New Mexico Senate on March 5, 2019, by a 30-8 vote. After the House approved minor amendments made by the Judiciary Committee, the proposal was sent back to the Senate for a final vote before arriving on the governor's desk in March 2019.    

Decriminalization isn't the only step New Mexican legislators have taken to alter the state's approach to cannabis. On April 1, 2019, Grisham also signed a bill that develops the regulatory groundwork for the state's entry into the industrial hemp market, according to The Associated Press. The measure will delegate oversight responsibilities among the departments of Agriculture, Health, and Environment.  

Sponsored by Democratic Rep. Derrick Lente, the measure aims to ensure that farmers and manufacturers are in compliance with federal and state law as they develop hemp-based products such as cannabidiol (CBD) and textiles. It also allows Native American communities to develop their own regulatory framework for hemp production.  

While both bills demonstrate that New Mexico is taking progressive steps toward cannabis legalization, the movement ultimately fell short. In March 2019, the House and a Senate committee approved a proposal to fully legalize and regulate the production and sale of cannabis, including the possibility of the state itself selling marijuana, but the measure did not progress to the chamber floor before the end of the legislative session.    

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Featured Image: Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, shown signing a bill April 3, 2019, at a Santa Fe elementary school to boost education spending, signed two bills that progress cannabis policy in the state. Lujan Grisham also signed on April 3, 2019, that decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana or drug paraphernalia. Two days earlier, the governor signed a bill to establish regulations for industrial hemp. (The Associated Press/Morgan Lee)