The governor of New Mexico urged the need for recreational marijuana legalization in the state to help “rebuild” an ailing economy hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham made the comments towards the end of a two hour livestream to update New Mexico residents on the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. Grisham was asked whether the legislature would vote on an adult-use marijuana legalization bill in the upcoming special session.

The governor did not directly say whether marijuana legalization would feature in the upcoming session but made a point she first raised last month: that had the bill passed earlier this year, it would not have been necessary to cut various tax-funded school support and other educational programs.

Grisham said “[T]he projections are nearly $100 million of recurring revenue into the budget” from cannabis legalization, including the state’s existing medical marijuana program.

“If we want economic support and economic relief, then we have to use every economic idea. And I want to point out also that the vast majority of New Mexicans favor recreational cannabis,” she added.

Gov. Grisham begins her remarks on cannabis legalization from around the 2:18:10 mark.

The $100 million projection comes from a working group formed by the governor to assess the impact of marijuana legalization and make recommendations. As well as including the state’s existing medical cannabis program – the country’s oldest having started in 1978 – the projection also assumes market maturity for an adult-use cannabis industry in New Mexico.

Grisham spoke strongly of the need to pass the measure and her intention to campaign on the issue at the next general election if action has not been taken by then.

“We have an opportunity,” she said. “I think all of our policymakers need to think clearly—and they should expect me to be supporting in the next general election—we have to pass recreational cannabis in the state. We need to diversify our economy, we need to increase opportunity for recurring revenue and we have to rebuild an economy that has suffered dramatically during this public health crisis.”

Like many states in the US, New Mexico’s economy has tanked since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak when lockdown and social distancing measures were imposed to limit the virus’s spread. New Mexico’s economy is heavily dependent on oil and gas industries which have seen demand plummet and oil prices drop dramatically. The state’s unemployment rate shot up to 11.3 percent by April. With a long-term projection of $100 million in steady annual revenue to the state’s coffers and the creation of an estimated 11,000 full-time jobs in the cannabis industry, there’s no question that marijuana legalization is key to a post-pandemic economic recovery. At the same time, many states and marijuana reform advocates have been forced to suspend their cannabis legalization efforts owing to social distancing measures and the need for lawmakers to pass emergency coronavirus legislation.

Image via Rolling Stone

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