Public Opinion and Wasted Tax Dollars Push Legislators to Fix Broken Marijuana Policies
SANTA FE, NM –(ENEWSPF)—February 2, 2018
By: Tommy McDonald and Emily Kaltenbach
Today, a legislative committee voted in favor of taxing and regulating marijuana in New Mexico. On a vote of 4-3 New Mexico State Senator Ortiz y Pino’s (D-12-Bernalillo) Senate Joint Resolution 4 (SJR4) passed the Senate Rules Committee. Senators Lopez, Ortiz y Pino, Ivey-Soto, and Steinborn all voted in favor of the resolution; Senators Papen, Moores, and Pirtle voted against.
The resolution would allow for the possession and personal use of marijuana by persons 21 years of age and older and for the regulation of the production, sale and taxation of marijuana in New Mexico.
“Today’s vote sets in motion the process to put the issue on a 2018 statewide ballot for voters,” said Emily Kaltenbach, New Mexico state director with the Drug Policy Alliance. “Marijuana prohibition in New Mexico has clearly failed. It hasn’t reduced use and instead has resulted in mass criminalization, appalling racial disparities, and enormous fiscal waste. Senator Ortiz y Pino’s resolution will allow our legislature to rethink how we can enhance the health and safety of all New Mexicans through sensible reforms.”
Polling data from 2016 shows New Mexicans’ attitudes towards changes in marijuana policy have shifted. Results show a 60 percent majority of New Mexicans polled are in favor of reforming current marijuana laws.
“It will be difficult to pass the resolution through both chambers in a 30-day session, 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.”
A national shift on marijuana legalization is underway. Despite the stance of the current federal administration, just last week the Governor of Vermont signed a bill to tax and regulate marijuana. That makes nine states, and Washington D.C. that have legalized marijuana for adult use. And 29 states now permit the use of medical marijuana, including New Mexico. Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon have brought in hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue from marijuana taxation, and the fears of prohibitionists have not been borne out in these states.
The Drug Policy Alliance’s newly released report From Prohibition to Progress finds that states are saving money and protecting the public by comprehensively regulating marijuana for adult use. There have been dramatic decreases in marijuana arrests and convictions, saving states millions of dollars and preventing the criminalization of thousands of people.
The report also finds that: youth marijuana use has remained stable in states that have legalized; access to legal marijuana is associated with reductions in some of the most troubling harms associated with opioid use, including opioid overdose deaths and untreated opioid use disorders; DUI arrests for driving under the influence, of alcohol and other drugs, have declined in Colorado and Washington, the first two states to legalize marijuana; and, at the same time, states are exceeding their marijuana revenue estimates and filling their coffers with hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation’s leading organization working to end the war on drugs. DPA fights for drug policies grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.