Yesterday, for the first time in history, a legislative committee voted in favor of taxing and regulating marijuana in New Mexico. On a vote of 5-4 New Mexico State Senator Ortiz y Pino's (D-12-Bernalillo) Senate Joint Resolution 2 (SJR2) passed the Senate Rules Committee.
SJR2 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 2016 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 the criminalization of people, gross racial disparities, and enormous fiscal waste. Senator Ortiz y Pino's resolution will allow our legislature rethink how we can enhance the health and safety of all New Mexicans through sensible reforms."
A 2013 state poll conducted by Research and Polling found a majority of New Mexico's registered voters (52 percent) say they support legalizing marijuana for adults, including 50 percent of independents and 60 percent of parents with children under the age of 18. Nearly 40 percent of voters say their senator or representative's position on the issue would not make a difference in how they vote with 31 percent of voters saying they would be more likely to vote for their legislator if they supported reducing penalties or taxing and regulating marijuana.
All eyes in New Mexico have been on Colorado to gauge the impact of the country's first-ever state law to tax and regulate the sale and private use of marijuana for non-medical purposes, which took effect last year. January 1, 2015, marked the one year anniversary since marijuana became available for purchase for adults 21 and older in Colorado. For over two years, the state has also allowed adults to possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana.
According to the state's department of revenue, the first ten months of legal marijuana sales have resulted in nearly $40 million in tax revenue. The city of Denver saw a decrease in violent crime rates in the first 11 months of 2014, following a similar trend in 2013. Statewide traffic fatalities continue to decline, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. Upwards of $8 million has been allocated to fund youth education and drug prevention efforts. And the state is enjoying economic growth and the lowest unemployment rate in years.
"Today is an historic day for New Mexicans," said Brett Phelps, president of the University of New Mexico's chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). "Our legislature has taken a courageous step towards creating a sensible policy for regulating and taxing marijuana in New Mexico. This is an issue that should be decided by the people and SJR 2 will allow New Mexicans to do just that. "
The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation's leading organization of people who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. DPA fights for drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights.