New Mexico Legalizes Recreational Cannabis

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On April 1, 2021, New Mexico became the seventeenth state to legalize adult use or recreational cannabis for those 21 and older.  New York just legalized recreational cannabis on March 31 (see our alert on this law here).  Cannabis use and possession – whether for recreational or medical use – still remains illegal under federal law. 

The New Mexico Cannabis Regulation Act (CRA) decriminalizes possession and use of cannabis and establishes a regulatory, taxing, and licensing system for commercial production and sales.  Commercial sales of cannabis would begin no later than April 1, 2022.

Of particular importance to employers, nothing in the CRA:

And, more broadly, the CRA does not restrict the ability of a person to prohibit conduct otherwise allowed in the CRA on the person's privately owned property.  Nor does the CRA allow a person to smoke cannabis products in a public place, except in a cannabis consumption area.

Finally, the CRA does not apply to employees who are subject to the provisions of the federal Railway Labor Act or interfere with a collective bargaining agreement.

Employers with New Mexico operations should review their policies and procedures – especially substance abuse/drug testing and workplace conduct policies – to ensure they account for legalized recreational cannabis.  We expect to see additional states legalize cannabis, both recreational and medical, in 2021, as well as increasing lawsuits brought by applicants and employees as the tension between state-legalized use continues to conflict with federal prohibitions.  Contact your Vorys lawyer if you have questions about cannabis legalization and its effect on your workplace.