The last time the Albuquerque Journal, New Mexico’s biggest newspaper, asked likely voters whether the state should legalize the recreational use of marijuana by adults they said yes by more than a three to two margin.
This surprised few since marijuana use and acceptance have been on an obvious upward curve here since the state validated marijuana for medical use back in 2007. One proof pot-tolerance was crossing some kind of political red line was that the New Mexico Democratic Party adopted legalization as a favorite issue several election cycles ago.
Generally speaking, pollsters have found across America, the younger the voter, the more likely the yes answer on legalization, making this what most Democratic politicians see as a good issue to run on now and even better in the future.
The 2018 elections produced in New Mexico Democratic sweeps of all state and federal offices other than judgeships. There is a Democratic governor, and Democratic majorities now rule in both houses of the state legislature. So, does that make the bill to legalize recreation use of marijuana a slam dunk?
Maybe not. In 2016, the last time recreational use was on the legislative docket, there were six Democratic votes against it in the Senate – enough to kill it. Well, all six of those anti-pot Democrats are still in the Senate, and all but one of ‘em says they are still leaning against it in its 2019 form. If all six vote no, they could kill the bill again.
But, as several people have noted, the six no’s share a quality: they are seniors, in political power and age, leading some to say this is not a partisan divide, but a generational one. Which could mean that it would only take one or two Republican senators who are young enough at heart to make legalization happen, notwithstanding the Senate’s senior citizens.
It will not be an easy vote because the consequences go so far beyond just toking and munching. Some claim recreational use of pot predicts more crime, more traffic accidents and more addiction. Most recent science suggests the answers to those claimed links are no on crime, possibly on drugged driving and no on addiction.
But nobody thinks everyone should be able to use marijuana where and whenever they feel like it, so the vote will include rules on how old a user has to be, and whether he or she can use, say, at work, out in the open in public spaces or near a school or day care center.
Those are just some of the easier elements of a law that will create, administer, regulate and monitor what is likely to be a $100 million a year industry in just a few years.
Mike Gallagher is a veteran investigative reporter working for the Albuquerque Journal. Most recently he completed a 5-part series on the possible legalization of marijuana for recreational use in (and his colleague Lauren Villagran) completed a 6-part series called The Cartels Next Door, covering the global trade in drugs from the 6 major cartels in Mexico, to the small local distribution networks in the cities town, villages and American Indian reservations in New Mexico.