Public Opinion and Wasted Tax Dollars Push Legislator to Fix Broken Marijuana Policies
Colorado, Washington, and Now Uruguay Offer Sensible Models and Precedent for Reform
This week, New Mexico State Senator Ortiz y Pino (D-12-Bernalillo) pre-filed Senate Joint Resolution 10 (SJR10) proposing to amend the New Mexico's constitution to tax and regulate marijuana for adult use. SJR10 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. If SJR10 passes, both the house and the senate, the amendment will be placed on the November 2014 ballot for the voters to decide.
"New Mexico's voters should be given the opportunity to decide on this issue. Other states' experience can help us formulate an approach that will end the problems created by prohibition while protecting juveniles. Because of the disparate impact the failed "war on drugs" has had on minorities and the poor, we are ruining lives, wasting money and missing economic development opportunities," said Sen. Ortiz y Pino. "
Colorado made world history on January 1 when commercial sales of marijuana became legal for adults. New Year's Day marked full implementation of Amendment 64, Colorado's successful 2012 ballot initiative. And, in December, Uruguay became the first country to adopt a marijuana legalization law.
"Smart elected officials on both sides of the aisle are starting to align themselves with voters that support controlling marijuana in new ways. They are realizing that supporting marijuana reform is not a detriment on the campaign trail, and in fact it can be a key asset to electoral success," said Emily Kaltenbach, New Mexico state director with the Drug Policy Alliance. "With a majority of New Mexico voters in favor of legalizing marijuana for adults, it is time for our state legislators to listen to their constituents."
A 2013 state poll conducted by Research and Polling found a majority of New Mexico's registered voters (52%) say they support legalizing marijuana for adults, including 50% of independents and 60% of parents with children under the age of 18. Thirty-one percent of voters said they would be more likely to vote for their legislator if they supported reducing penalties or taxing and regulating marijuana.
Harvard University professor of economics Jeffrey Miron concluded that New Mexico could bring in between $19 - $20.82 million annually in marijuana tax revenues alone and by ending marijuana prohibition, the state of New Mexico could save over $33 million on police, courts and corrections costs of enforcing existing marijuana laws.
"We've tried marijuana prohibition for decades, and it's clearly failed. It hasn't reduced use and instead has resulted in the criminalization of millions of people, gross racial disparities, and enormous fiscal waste," said Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "We need to rethink how we can enhance the health and safety of all New Mexicans through sensible reforms. Tackling these issues will require a vigorous, informed debate, and Senator Ortiz y Pino's resolution offers a place for these discussions."
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.