Legislator seeks NM vote on marijuana legalization

January 4, 2014 • State News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A state legislator wants New Mexico voters to decide whether to legalize sale of recreational marijuana.

Democratic Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino of Albuquerque plans legislation for a constitutional amendment for marijuana legalization, the Albuquerque Journal ( reported Friday.

Ortiz y Pino says his proposal would take an approach on use of marijuana similar to what is done with alcohol and that it will be modeled after a referendum that Colorado voters approved in 2012.

If approved by New Mexico legislators, the legalization proposal would go on the [auth] state’s November general election ballot.

“I think the argument we’ll make is that this is basically an opportunity for the public to decide if they want to do it,” Ortiz y Pino said. “.If they don’t (vote for it) we go back to the drawing board.”

If voters end up approving the proposal, lawmakers in 2015 could consider specifics on how marijuana might be sold, taxed and regulated in New Mexico, Ortiz y Pino said.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez opposes drug legalization, but constitutional amendment proposals go straight from the Legislature to the ballot.

“As a prosecutor and district attorney, the governor has seen firsthand how illegal drug use destroys lives, especially among our youth, and she opposes drug legalization or decriminalization efforts,” spokesman Enrique Knell said in a statement.

Knell called the proposal an effort to increase liberal voter turnout in the November election, when Martinez will be seeking re-election.

A Republican legislative leader, House Minority Leader Nate Gentry, said this year’s 30-day legislative session is too brief for adequate consideration of the issue.

“I don’t think it moves,” Gentry said. “. It’s something that needs to be considered in a very thoughtful way, not by willy-nilly amending the Constitution.”

House Majority Whip Antonio “Moe” Maestas said House members could support a legalization measure because public opinion in favor of legalization has grown over the past year.

“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,” Maestas said.

The Legislature convenes its 2014 session this month.

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