Marijuana legalization being debated today, poll shows major support

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[UPDATE: Debate on Sen. Ortiz y Pino’s proposal was pushed back today. No word yet on when (or if) it will be heard before the session ends. To stay up-to-date, be sure to join our email list by clicking here.]

Today the Senate Rules Committee will discuss a constitutional amendment to be added to the ballot in November that would decide the fate of legalizing marijuana in New Mexico.

While not the only bill in this year’s legislative slate to tackle the issue, the constitutional amendment, if passed through both chambers, would allow New Mexican voters to decide.

And in case you missed it, those voters show overwhelming support for the idea.

Last week the New Mexico Political Report highlighted a study that showed 61% of voters polled favored regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol. That number climbed to nearly 70% when voters were asked if they’d support legalization if proceeds from the sale of cannabis were used for rehabilitation and drug treatment in addition to funding schools and other state projects.

From the article:

[Senator] Ortiz y Pino is proposing an amendment to the state constitution that would let voters decide whether to legalize in the general election this fall. Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Las Cruces, is also carrying a separate bill to legalize marijuana through the state legislature…

Ortiz y Pino estimates that legalization could bring New Mexico anywhere from an additional $20 million to $60 million in tax revenue each year…his bill mentions that the revenue would go to law enforcement and funding Medicaid. Ortiz y Pino said he’d add an amendment to include education.

McCamley’s bill marks 40 percent of the marijuana revenue to the general fund, 25 percent to alcohol and substance abuse treatment, 20 percent to city and county law enforcement agencies and 15 percent to state police.

For a legislative session where the Republican leadership and governor are focused on tough-on-crime bills, McCamley said this one should be easy.

“What we’re doing with this bill, we are taking money out of the hands of drug dealers, we are taking money out of the hands of cartels,” McCamley said, “and we are replacing it in the hands of legitimate business owners.”

The poll marks a significant increase in support from just two years ago, when Research & Polling found 44 percent supportive of legalization and 50 percent opposed.

A constitutional amendment does not require the signature of the governor, who has stated repeatedly that she would veto any attempts at legalization even if it were passed in the legislature.

Our Northern neighbor Colorado has seen a great deal of success with legalization in that state including lower crime rates and a huge influx of tax revenue. Arizona is also on track to offer a statewide referendum on legalization in November as well.

The Senate Rules Committee will begin at 8:00am today. You can stream it live here.

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