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NM Legislature Convenes for Special Session on Legalizing Marijuana

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If legislation passes in a special session of the Legislature this week, New Mexico would be the 15th state in the country to legalize recreational marijuana. (my.lwv.org)
If legislation passes in a special session of the Legislature this week, New Mexico would be the 15th state in the country to legalize recreational marijuana. (my.lwv.org)
 By Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM - Producer, Contact
March 30, 2021

SANTA FE, N.M. -- New Mexico's 2021 legislative session officially ended 10 days ago, but within hours, the governor called a special session to continue debate on legislation that would legalize recreational marijuana.

When running for office, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she would support cannabis legalization.

Emily Kaltenbach, senior director for resident states and New Mexico, at the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates for alternatives to the war on drugs, said polls have shown New Mexico residents favor such legislation, but state lawmakers have not been on board.

"Now I think lawmakers' opinions are more aligned with the public's opinion on this," Kaltenbach observed. "I had always said that 2021 would be the year, and I hope that I'm right."

A survey by the group Drug Policy Action found that nearly three out of four New Mexicans, including 94% of Democrats, 93% of Independents and 46% of Republicans, approve of cannabis legalization with provisions in place to ensure tax revenue is reinvested into communities.

Kaltenbach noted Hispanic, Latinx, Black, Native and Indigenous communities have been disproportionately impacted by the prohibition on marijuana, having been targeted by law enforcement for illegal use.

While medical marijuana is already legalized in the state, she hopes whatever legislation is hammered out will address the past harms of the drug war and create greater equity for marginalized populations.

"That's important because in a state like New Mexico that is so rural, there are many parts of the state where medical cannabis patients don't have adequate access," Kaltenbach explained.

The governor's office has estimated that a legalized marijuana marketplace could create 11,000 jobs in New Mexico and be a new revenue source for a state largely dependent on the oil and gas industry for its tax base.

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