What Impact Will Marijuana Legalization Have In New Mexico?

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Legalization In The Land Of Enchantment

New Mexico’s economy continues to be one of the slowest growing economies in the country. The state budget shortfalls for 2016 totals near $600 million, and this slow economic growth by the state reveals too much dependence on the federal government and oil revenues. The special session called for the state legislature in October, only resulted in more cuts to the state budget and party politics taking away from the purpose of the special session.

Those sources of New Mexico’s economic malaise provide funding for Education, Veterans Programs, Police/ Firefighter Funding, and Health and Human Services programs like Medicaid. New Mexico is also a state where half of all New Mexicans are on medicaid or medicare.

New Mexico, for the second year in a row, is ranked as the worst-run state in the country with some of the worst social and economic outcomes. In just six years, New Mexico went from 37th spot to the 50th-the worst run state. New Mexico also has a “citizen legislature”, that is more properly termed a “volunteer legislature”, because these legislators are unpaid they all must have outside jobs, businesses or sources of income. All the larger municipalities and counties in New Mexico provide salaries for city councilors and county commissioners.

Will factors like this be a challenge for New Mexico, in properly handling the legalization of cannabis for 2017?

Only a handful of states struggle with similar levels of extreme poverty as New Mexico. More than one in every 10 households in the state earns less than $10,000 each year, the second highest proportion after Mississippi. The state also struggles with one of the nation’s highest violent crime rates. Close to 600 violent crimes are reported each year per 100,000 state residents, one of the highest rates nationwide.

Of the three most crucial budget demands upon the state of New Mexico: Public Schools, Medicaid, and Higher Education. Combined they are the true economic and social multiplier with the greatest opportunity of success for the state’s residents and the state’s economy.

The state has the renewable resources to potentially provide 1,000 times more clean energy than the Public Service Company of New Mexico’s current demand, according to the state’s Energy Conservation and Management Division.

The state of New Mexico should legalize cannabis and hemp to first and foremost start paying the state legislators. A hybrid state legislature: Meeting for most of the year and pays the legislators as full-time employees. They can serve the constituents much better because of their extended time in office and ability to devote more time to each issue. New Mexico is the only state with a unsalaried legislature. Some lawmakers such as Democratic Rep. Antonio Maestas say a salary would increase the pool of talent to fill the seats. Maestas says few people can afford to serve in a citizen Legislature.

The growth of political action committee’s and their influence in New Mexico politics is another concern, PAC’s financial contributions has more than doubled in the last 10 years for New Mexico.  Medical Cannabis-related businesses and their executives donated at least $13,500 to House Majority Leader Nate Gentry earlier in 2016.

Of that, $10,000 came from Ultra Health LLC and its founder, Duke Rodriguez. The Scottsdale, Arizona, based for-profit recently took over management of New Mexico Top Organics.  And now this grower could be in jeopardy of losing its producers license, they were booted from the New Mexico State Fair after putting a medical cannabis plant on display this summer.  State Fair officials confirmed to KOAT-TV, that they told Ultra Health to pack up and leave because the contract it signed with Ultra Health prohibits drug-related merchandise and paraphernalia. The New Mexico Department of Health, which runs the medical cannabis program, is in process of reviewing this matter.

For all New Mexicans the best platform, so far, for the legalization of cannabis was ready for the New Mexico Legislature special session in 2016 as HB-11, Cannabis Revenue And Freedom Act by Rep. Bill McCamley and Rep. Javier Martinez . Party politics kept it from being introduced and read in the legislature. Look for the New Mexico Legislature to be busy on the topic of cannabis legalization for this January 2017, when the legislature meets at the Roundhouse for a 60 day session.

Providing funding for a paid legislature and state budget reform can be achieved with cannabis and hemp legalization; in conjunction with the utilization of solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources. Hemp is refined into products such as hemp seed foods, hemp oil medicine, wax, resin/plastics, rope, cloth, pulp, paper, and fuel. This will create jobs, has vast potential for the state universities in New Mexico to benefit, and creates a new business market to keep college graduates in New Mexico.  States have a paid rather than volunteer fire departments, law enforcement, health-care workers, and teachers, to name a few. The reason is that we rightly expect increased reliability, productivity, and professionalism when we pay for services as opposed to them being provided voluntarily.

Colorado cannabis tax revenues now greatly exceeds original estimates of $70 million per year. Canada has had industrial hemp since 1998, and farmers there have reported net profits of $200 to $250 per acre. Most Canadian hemp is exported to the United States. The Colorado Tourism Office reports that 12% are visiting Colorado dispensaries and 5% specifically due to cannabis legalization there. The activities that cannabis tourist reported engaging in included: sightseeing and wine tours, historical sites, hiking, camping, mountain biking, winter snow sports, nightlife, festivals and farmers’ markets, according to the survey. All great activities in New Mexico with a Balloon Fiesta to boot.

New Mexico can be a leader and pioneer in the sciences of medical cannabis, cannabis and hemp. New Mexico needs to define a new policy model for cannabis legalization; by regulating and taxing cannabis under the high standards of alcohol regulation- specific to the craft brewery industry regulations in New Mexico, and by combining regulation and policy standards used in New Mexico for herbal and nutritional supplements. As all use of cannabis has true therapeutic and medical benefits and the state budget can benefit from it under proper regulation. Legalization Is About Freedom And Good Health, Not Greed.

Jason Barker
About Jason Barker 35 Articles

• New Mexico medical cannabis patient and activist
• Grass roots organizer with LECUA Patients Coalition of New Mexico
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