Is Marijuana Legal In New Mexico
This November, on the ballot is a measure that would legalize marijuana for recreational use in New Mexico. The initiative, known as Question 4, was placed on the ballot by supporters who believe it could become one of the first state legalization measures to pass if successful.
But what exactly does Question 4 mean? And how will this affect you and your family should it be passed?
In 2014, Colorado became the second U.S. state to fully legalize the possession and sale of marijuana (the first being Alaska). After years of debate over whether or not to do so, voters approved Amendment 64 with 59% yes votes, signaling a shift toward accepting pot culture among Americans.
Since then, four more states have legalized weed for medical purposes only — California, Oregon, Illinois, and Washington State. And now, another five states are considering legalizing marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes.
This year, the question isn’t “whether” but rather “which,” as New Mexico residents will decide whether they want to end their federal prohibition against possessing and growing marijuana plants. On Nov. 8th, 2016, New Mexicans will vote on Proposition 2-164 which seeks to make the following changes to New Mexico law regarding personal cultivation, distribution, and consumption of marijuana:
1) Allow anyone 21+ to possess up to an ounce of dried flower or 10 ounces of fresh plant material without fear of prosecution, provided no intent to distribute
2) Create new criminal penalties for distributing marijuana within 1/4 mile of elementary school, secondary school, or college campus
3) Remove all civil asset forfeiture laws related to marijuana crimes committed before the passage of Prop 2-164, including those relating to drug paraphernalia and proceeds from sales of marijuana
4) Establish an expungement process for convictions involving simple marijuana possession
5) Eliminate jail time requirement for low-level misdemeanor offenses involving marijuana
6) Authorize local governments to tax and regulate retail stores selling marijuana
7) Provide funding for substance abuse treatment programs
8) Establish a Department of Cannabis Regulation responsible for issuing licenses for the production and commercialization of marijuana
9) Require annual reporting of licensed facilities & product quality standards to ensure public safety
10) Restrict advertising of edibles products containing THC to registered health professionals only
11) Allow cities and counties to enact zoning regulations prohibiting marijuana businesses within city limits
12) Prohibit smoking marijuana in vehicles with children present
13) Prevent schools from using funds allocated under proposition 2-164 for instruction about the harmful effects of marijuana
14) Change the voter approval deadline for future revenue bonds issued by DCR to 2021 instead of 2020
15) Place the proposition on the statewide ballot after the legislature disagrees with the final language
If passed into law, these proposed amendments would allow people ages 21 and older to legally grow, purchase and consume marijuana while eliminating certain restrictions currently imposed upon them.
These include age requirements, location limitations, possession amounts, and mandatory background checks. Under current law, possession of any amount of marijuana can result in steep fines and even prison sentences, depending on the circumstances.
There are around 100,000 arrests annually for marijuana violations in New Mexico alone.
But despite its legality, marijuana remains illegal at the federal level because of the Controlled Substance Act signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970. Nevertheless, according to the National Organization For Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), nearly half of American adults admit that they’ve used marijuana in some form during their lifetime.
But why continue arresting many otherwise peaceful citizens when we know that many support relaxing our current policies?
Opponents argue that marijuana has been unfairly singled out and demonized by politicians and media outlets. They claim that much like alcohol, tobacco, and other legal substances, negative consequences such as addiction, impaired driving, crime, etc., exist due to human behavior — not the drugs themselves.
Some opponents also point to the success of prescription painkillers and opiates as indicators that marijuana doesn’t pose any unique threat compared to other popular drugs. Others don’t care enough to get involved. Either way, the consensus seems to be that something needs to change. What’s clear is that marijuana reform is slowly gaining momentum across America.
Now let’s take a closer look at what Proposition 2-164 means to ordinary New Mexican families.
How Does This Affect You If I Live Elsewhere?
So far, the most significant impact of marijuana reform efforts thus far has likely been felt in Colorado, where legalization advocates were quick to capitalize on their victory last fall. While most of us may never revisit Denver, the fact that tourists flock to shop, eat and drink alongside locals who openly carry open containers of bud may give some Coloradans pause before participating in outdoor activities near dispensaries.
Colorado officials say that tourism accounts for $40 billion per year in spending throughout the entire state, making it impossible to ignore the potential economic impacts of marijuana legalization on areas outside Denver.
One recent study found that the average tourist spends close to $200 per night inside hotels less than 3 miles away from shops selling marijuana. In contrast, the same tourist spent almost double that amount ($400) in the area immediately surrounding the state capital [Source: Fox News].
At least one town leader called for a ban on marijuana dispensaries following the news earlier this month. Not surprisingly, similar bans have already taken place elsewhere. For instance, in nearby Utah County, a small community north of Salt Lake City, county leaders voted unanimously to outlaw any dispensary activity in unincorporated parts of the county.
Some critics warn that allowing pot shops next door to kids’ daycare centers puts parents in danger of unwittingly breaking the law themselves. However, studies show that increased access to marijuana reduces the chances of young children trying it since it becomes easier to obtain.
A 2013 study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence showed that teens with easy access to marijuana were less prone to engage in risky behaviors like unprotected sex or drinking. Another 2012 study concluded that teenagers aren’t more susceptible to becoming dependent on marijuana once it becomes available via the black market, unlike previous fears that pot dealers might target vulnerable youth looking to escape peer pressure.
Finally, several experts say marijuana users shouldn’t worry too much about getting behind the wheel. Even though intoxication levels tend to be higher than alcohol, marijuana impairment tests generally take longer than breathalyzers typically require to detect signs of impairment.
Another argument often cited is that marijuana legalization encourages further experimentation with harder drugs like heroin and meth. However, another study conducted by researchers at Columbia University found that overall rates of illicit drug use didn’t go down between 2007 and 2010 in states where medical marijuana was allowed.
So, what’s going on here? Perhaps it comes down to the idea that marijuana relieves stress and anxiety better than anything else. As noted previously, most marijuana smokers surveyed said they believed the drug helps ease symptoms associated with PTSD. That’s certainly true for my wife and me.
Should We Support This Measure?
While marijuana legalization positively affects communities nationwide, it’s important to note that many issues remain unclear at this early stage. For example, research hasn’t determined whether regular marijuana usage leads to long-term cognitive problems.
Plus, plenty of evidence shows that decriminalizing marijuana can lead to greater drug availability, putting it in the hands of those seeking it out for strictly non-medicinal reasons. Still, others say that legalization won’t help solve major social problems associated with the black market, namely high incarceration rates and gang violence fueled by turf wars over territory controlled by cartels.
However, one thing is for sure — regardless of the ultimate verdict on Proposition 2-164, Americans need to come together to address broader concerns like education, employment opportunities, poverty alleviation, and housing costs. With proper regulation, taxation, and sensible marketing practices, perhaps the whole concept of marijuana will soon seem outdated and irrelevant. Until then, enjoy responsibly!
Decriminalization refers to ending the practice of charging individuals arrested for marijuana-related crimes with felonies. Instead, offenders could receive lesser charges ranging from misdemeanors to summary offenses.
Decriminalization differs from full legalization, allowing for the possession, growth, and redistribution of marijuana for medicinal or recreational uses. Like decriminalizing, legalization eliminates harsh punishments for control, but proponents argue that legalization creates additional challenges like environmental degradation, theft, fraud, and corruption.
Though marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, many individual states have enacted legislation permitting limited forms of marijuana commerce through licensing systems similar to those employed today for alcohol and tobacco industries.
Interestingly, younger generations are slightly more tolerant of marijuana than baby boomers. According to a report released by the Pew Research Center in June 2015, 52 percent of respondents favored legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes, while 38 percent wanted to keep it illegal.
Among Gen X’ers and millennials, 46 percent favor legalization for recreational use, versus 37 percent opposed. Boomers showed little interest in changing their views on the matter.