A new proposal to legalize recreational cannabis will be filed in the New Mexico Legislature this month, with Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino as the primary sponsor.The measure will be a constitutional amendment, and will be modeled after Colorado’s Amendment 64.
Given that the proposal is being filed as a constitutional amendment, its approval through the House and Senate will send it to the voters next fall, meaning it would bypass the state’s governor, who publicly opposes the legalization of cannabis.
“The whole point would be that it would be a step toward a more rational approach to a use of the substance, much as we do with alcohol now,” says Senator Ortiz y Pino.
Last year, a proposal to decriminalize up to 4 ounces of cannabis was approved by the state’s House of Representatives (in a 37 to 33 vote), but was never taken up by the Senate before the Legislature adjourned.
Representative Antonio “Moe” Maestas, the House Majority Whip, says he expects that the House may approve the measure, given that public support has grown rapidly in recent months.
“There’s going to be those members that just can’t overcome prior prejudices, they can’t overcome their own hatred of drug use or drug users, but we all know that prohibition doesn’t work,” said Maestas. “That revenue side of things hopefully will be able to tip the scales because there’s going to be no lobby against taxing it.”
Going into the session, Senator Ortiz y Pino is optimistic of the bill’s chances, and says that the passage of Amendment 64 changes the playing field; “We’ve been talking about it, but until Colorado acted last year, it had seemed like kind of a pipe dream,” he said. “The early polling on this, both nationally and in the state, show it would be a very popular measure.”