A new poll of New Mexico voters shows solid majority support for legalizing adult use. The poll covered all the state’s regions, including its conservative east.
According to the Albuquerque Journal, which commissioned the poll, 60 percent of “likely, proven voters” in the state now support legalization. Among Democrats, 74 percent favored legalization, while 53 percent of Republicans did. In the recent poll, 51 percent of voters 65 and over supported legalization, while among those 18 to 34, that number was 79 percent. Among voters who were neither Democrats nor Republicans, support for legalization ran at 67 percent, with 29 percent opposed.
Will New Mexico legalize adult use in 2018?
Such solid numbers in favor of legalization raises the question of why cannabis remains illegal in New Mexico. One reason is that even a short time ago, the polls on legalization were different. In a poll conducted four years ago, only 44 percent of voters supported legalization. In addition, New Mexico does not have a legal process for voter initiatives, which are the means by which medical marijuana and adult use became legal in other states. Only this year did legalization occur by means other than voter initiative. Vermont became the first state to legalize through the legislature in January this year. The Republican-led legislature of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), a U.S. territory, also legalized in September. Legalization through the legislature may also be coming to New Jersey soon.
As the Albuquerque Journal reports, previous legislative efforts to legalize were stopped by some conservative Democrats’ joining with Republicans. As voter support for legalization increases, however, this pattern may change.
Medical marijuana program has been successful
In 2007, medical marijuana became legal in New Mexico through a legislative process. When the governor signed the bill, he said, “This is for medicinal purpose, for…people that are suffering. My God, let’s be reasonable.” New Mexico is a leader in medical marijuana research, having conducted FDA-approved studies since 1978. The University of New Mexico has a Medical Cannabis Research Fund, which is “comprised of faculty and researchers from a variety of disciplines at the University of New Mexico who are focused on conducting scientifically valid and unbiased research on medical Cannabis across all areas of social and biomedical sciences.” The state’s medical marijuana program is also bringing in significant tax revenue. The program has 46,645 enrolled patients, who spent $86.2 million on cannabis in 2017 and may spend $100 million in 2018. The most common conditions for patients are cancer, inflammatory autoimmune-mediated arthritis, neuropathy, PTSD, and severe chronic pain. There is no tax on medical marijuana in the state, but a press release from a provider claims:
Medical cannabis providers generated over $4 million in gross receipt tax, and paid over $15.7 million in employee salaries for an effective 600 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees. Producers also paid plant license fees of nearly $3 million to the NMDOH to administer the program. The program is fully self-funded and provides for a revenue surplus to New Mexico’s budget coffers.
With a well-established medical program and increasing support for adult use in New Mexico, the state may someday join Vermont and CNMI by legalizing through the legislature rather than by initiative. The state’s Democratic party has a plank supporting legalization in its platform, and one Democratic lawmaker has promised to introduce a legalization bill in 2018. The legislature has a very short session this year, however, so it may happen that only the most urgent funding bills get passed this year.
What do you think? Will New Mexico or New Jersey be the next state to legalize via the legislature? Leave a comment below.