Pubdate: Wed, 26 Nov 2014
Source: New Mexican, The (Santa Fe, NM)
Copyright: 2014 The Associated Press
Author: Susan Montoya Bryan, The Associated Press


State House Dem Plans Legislation Modeled on Oregon Law, but Measure 
May Face GOP Challenge

ALBUQUERQUE - The conversation about whether New Mexico should join 
other Western states in legalizing marijuana is cranking up as state 
lawmakers prepare for the 2015 legislative session.

Rep. Bill McCamley, a Democrat from Southern New Mexico, took his 
case for legalization to fellow lawmakers Tuesday during a meeting of 
the interim Health and Human Services Committee.

McCamley dismissed the stoner humor of 1970s comics Cheech and Chong 
and said this should be a serious debate.

"Let's talk about the facts," he told the committee. "Let's talk 
about what's actually happening in terms of public policy, and let's 
not get caught up in stereotypes about what this is or isn't."

McCamley has yet to craft the legislation, but he's looking at Oregon 
as a model. Voters in that state, Alaska and the District of Columbia 
approved ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana earlier this month, 
joining Colorado and Washington.

In New Mexico, the push for legalization follows the success of 
ballot questions in two of the state's most populous counties that 
gauged voter support for decriminalizing marijuana.

"If you look at prohibition, it's basically a failure both in terms 
of alcohol in the 1920s and the drug war now," McCamley said during 
an interview. "We're spending all of this money enforcing marijuana 
laws and prosecuting people for smoking marijuana. That can be used 
in other law enforcement efforts like prosecuting rapists and 
murderers - and that's important."

Then there's the potential for tax revenue.

There have been no studies on the economic effects legalization would 
have on New Mexico, a poor state and one that has long struggled when 
it comes to economic development. In neighboring Colorado, the state 
has brought in more than $52 million in taxes, licenses and fees for 
recreational and medical marijuana since the beginning of the year.

McCamley also estimates the state could save over $33 million in 
costs associated with police, courts and corrections if marijuana is 
legalized. "If we legalize and regulate marijuana, we get the 
benefits of the tax money. And the cartels that are creating a lot of 
violence both in the United States and internationally, we cut them 
off at the knees at the same time," he said.

A bill that would have let voters decide the issue failed during the 
last legislative session amid concerns about running afoul of federal 
law and possibly losing grant money from the U.S. Justice Department 
and other agencies for efforts to reduce drug trafficking and drug production.

The New Mexico Sheriffs' Association has yet to develop a position on 
the matter.

"Right now, there are several sheriffs who are very opposed to it. We 
also have sheriffs who say let's wait and see and others who want it 
researched," said Jack LeVick, the group's executive director. 
"Before we jump on board as another state doing it, everybody needs 
to spend the time and really research the patterns and the problems 
that are existing."

Gov. Susana Martinez has A slide lists the states where marijuana 
measures have been approved. been an outspoken critic of 
decriminalizing marijuana, and control of the state House of 
Representatives swinging to Republicans will likely make for a 
challenge in getting legislation passed.

"We don't want to get people's expectations up, but it's very 
important to have this conversation," McCamley said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom