SANTA FE (KRQE) — A state Senator wants voters to decide if New Mexico should legalize marijuana.
But first, he has to get the proposal through the legislature and opponents are already trying to stamp out the idea.
Bills to legalize marijuana have not received much of hearing at the Roundhouse lately. Now Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, wants to create a constitutional amendment and let voters have the final say.
“Permits to produce it, permits to sell it - all those could be revenue streams for local and state government,” Ortiz y Pino said.
Ortiz y Pina says it’s not just potential state revenues that have him interested in legalizing pot. He says punishing people for possessing small amounts of marijuana ties up police resources and makes an otherwise law-abiding citizen a criminal.
“We're also destroying a lot of lives in the process as we send people to jail or prosecute them,” he said.
Ortiz y Pino wants to create a constitutional amendment to legalize it. If the joint resolution passes both chambers with a simple majority, then it would go on the ballot to let voters have the final say in 2014.
But the idea has many opponents, including the Governor’s office.
“As a prosecutor and district attorney, the Governor has seen first-hand how illegal drug use destroys lives, especially among our youth, and she opposes drug legalization or decriminalization efforts, “ Martinez said.
The Department of Public Safety is not convinced marijuana is tying up resources.
“In most cases of personal use, we're able to issue a citation and let them go about their business,” said State Police Chief Robert Shilling.
Shilling says he’s concerned about the effects to public health and safety, especially the potential to add more intoxicated drivers on the roads.
“From a Department of Public Safety perspective, there's just not enough data there,” Shilling said. “It seems to be, for lack of a better term, a national experiment with a few states legalizing small amounts.”
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New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.