New Mexico State Representative Javier Martinez introduced House Bill 312 to tax and regulate marijuana on Wednesday. The bill puts forth a vision of an industry that would support economic growth and begin to dismantle the policies of the war on drugs that have hit New Mexico hard.
Martinez tore into the current state of New Mexico marijuana policy in a statement that followed the bill’s introduction on Wednesday.
“The war on marijuana has been a miserable failure,’’ said Martinez. “We spend millions of dollars criminalizing people who use marijuana without seeing benefits to public health or safety. We need to legalize marijuana in New Mexico and stop the harm that disproportionally impacts those who are living in poverty and those who are Black, Native and Hispanic/Latino.”
Martinez went on to note marijuana convictions can have tragic long-term consequences for individuals and families.
“People may lose jobs or be unable to secure employment because of a criminal record. Students who incur a marijuana conviction can lose their student loans,” Martinez said.
“The punishment doesn’t fit the offense and New Mexicans agree we should remove penalties and instead tax and regulate marijuana,” said Martinez.
Polling data in recent years has shown a big shift in New Mexicans’ views on marijuana policy. A 2016 poll found that 60 percent of the state’s residents are now in favor of reforming the current laws.
The Drug Policy Alliance has been leading policy reform efforts in New Mexico for over a decade, including the push for medical marijuana and other harm reduction based practices. Their New Mexico State Director Emily Kaltenbach weighed in on today’s big news.
“New Mexico’s current marijuana laws are unfair, unpopular and wasteful. Thousands of individuals are arrested for marijuana possession in New Mexico every year,” said Kaltenbach. “It is a waste of law enforcement resources and taxpayer money when we could have a safe and legal industry creating thousands of sustainable new jobs. Legalizing small amounts of marijuana will also increase tax revenue and remove millions in sales from the criminal market, putting that money into the New Mexico economy.”
Kaltenbach believes if the bill were successful it would instantly create one of New Mexico’s most lucrative industries.
Reformers are calling the bill presented by Martinez, common sense measure that is long overdue. But they aren’t putting too much stock into this incarnation due to the short session. They are primarily excited about the potential to use the legislation as a tool for discussion and a way to move the conversation forward before the 60-day legislative session in 2019.
“We don’t expect the bill to pass this year, but introducing it is important,” said Kaltenbach. “We also hope to discuss the merits and challenges of marijuana legalization with legislators during the interim session as well as with their constituents. Feedback from these conversations will make for the best, most carefully thought out policy proposal for 2019.”
The Drug Policy Alliance also pointed to their recent report that found states are saving money and protecting the public by comprehensively regulating marijuana for adult use. Not to mention there have been, “huge drops in marijuana arrests and convictions, saving states millions of dollars and preventing the criminalization of thousands of people.”
Back in 2007 before the wave of pro-cannabis energy swept across America, then-Governor Bill Richardson signed a bill that made New Mexico the 12th state to legalize medical marijuana not long before hitting the presidential campaign trail. At the time Richardson told the Associated Press, “So what if it’s risky? It’s the right thing to do,” said Richardson, one of the candidates in the crowded 2008 field. “What we’re talking about is 160 people in deep pain. It only affects them.”
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