SANTA FE, New Mexico -- After the New Mexico Legislature meets on Tuesday, lawmakers will decide whether the state should legalize marijuana in 2021.
“New Mexico can lead the country in a legalization framework that protects the medical program," said State Rep. Javier Martínez of Albuquerque, who plans to introduce the bill in the 55th Legislature.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced last week that her priorities this session include "legalizing adult-use recreational cannabis through legislation that protects the state’s medical cannabis program."
The bill will meet opposition from Republicans, including Minority Whip Rod Montoya, a Republican from the Farmington area. He called marijuana "the lazy drug."
“We already have legalized marijuana," Montoya said. "If you want to get it now, all you have to do is go to a doctor and prescribe it for your backache, your headache, for nausea."
"This would not be an industry for us in New Mexico at this time," said Doña Ana County Sheriff Kim Stewart.
As a member of the governor's marijuana legalization task force in 2019, Stewart said she heard the opinions of 300 constituents. She worries that legalization could lead to "the decimation" of the medical program.
However, Martinez said the legislation would "not just protect, but enhance the medical program." He said medical cannabis would be exempt from the state's gross receipts tax.
"We know firsthand that there are many people in this state who depend on the program for quality of life purposes and we want to make sure we protect their interest," Martinez said.
(Albuquerque ABC affiliate KOAT contributed to this report.)