Democratic state legislators in New Mexico are putting forth more effort for the legalization of cannabis and tax sales for recreational marijuana use to drive in plunging state revenues and give the economy a boost. Advocates of parallel bills in the Senate and House disclosed their proposal to control cannabis sales and apply a 15% state sales tax.

Local governments would choose whether to grant cannabis sales within their jurisdictions and may collect an additional 5% tax, while growing would be allowed statewide, under a proposal modeled after pot laws in Colorado. Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque stated, “We create jobs, we create economic activity and we create revenues for the state. It is one way this state has, and I think one of the most promising ways, to get back on track economically.”

The Legislature is working to close a major deficit and boost depleted operating reserves between a downturn in the oil and natural gas sectors and a sluggish economy. State agency spending was cut back 2.4% in October and more cuts are expected for the fiscal year starting July 1 if new tax revenues fail to take place. Former district attorney and Republican New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez has persistently opposed the legalization of cannabis and industrial hemp manufacturing, and has held fast to vows again new taxes.

Ortiz y Pino showed hope that the governor could be swayed to support legalization with enough public pressure, noting that she was one of the first Republican governors to sign up for the expansion of Medicaid health care under Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. At the same time, she plans to introduce a constitutional amendment that could take legalization of cannabis and industrial hemp farming to a statewide vote in 2018, with or without the governor’s support. That would set back implementation until around 2019.

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