Despite the long odds, two bills to reform New Mexico marijuana laws are making progress in the state Senate.

While a bill from Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, to tax and regulate marijuana died a lopsided death in the state House of Representatives earlier this month, a similar measure by state Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Bernalillo, quietly passed the Senate Rules Committee the following week.

The narrow approval of Ortiz y Pino's bill, a constitutional amendment that would allow statewide voters to approve legalization or not, marks the first time any marijuana legalization bill has passed a committee in the Roundhouse. The bill passed committee on a 5-4 mostly party-line vote, with state Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Cibola, voting no, and state Sen. Stuart Ingle, R-Chaves, not present.

The bill now sits before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Another proposal that would reduce penalties for marijuana possession cleared the Senate Public Affairs Committee last week on a 4-2 party-line vote. The bill would reduce the charge of possessing one ounce or less of marijuana from a petty misdemeanor on the first offense to a fine of $50. All subsequent offenses would be considered petty misdemeanors and a felony for possessing more than eight ounces.

The measure, sponsored by state Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Doña Ana, now sits before the Senate Judiciary Committee as well.

Two bills to allow industrial hemp use are also making traction in both chambers. In the upper chamber, a bill by state Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Bernalillo, passed the Senate Conservation Committee unanimously but without recommendation. A similar bill in the lower chamber by state Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas, D-Bernalillo, got a warm reception in the House Agriculture, Water and Wildlife Committee but has not yet been acted on.

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