Will New Mexico legalize cannabis this year?

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Thor Benson / Cannabis News Box Contributor

It’s looking might New Mexico might legalize cannabis sooner than later, as a bill that has been introduced to the state’s House of Representatives looks like it will pass. However, it looks like it might have a tough time passing in the state’s Senate.

“After the election, I think we have a much friendlier House of Representatives, and we have a governor who’s expressed that if a bill reaches her desk, she’s likely to sign it, but we still have the same Senate we did last year,” Emily Kaltenbach, a senior director at the Drug Policy Alliance’s New Mexico office, told Cannabis News Box. “There are definitely some barriers to getting it passed in the Senate. It’s still possible, but we’re still counting the votes. It’ll definitely be a challenge.”

Kaltenbach said there aren’t any major groups opposing legalization in the state, at this time, but she said both Democratic and Republican senators in the state have been skeptical when it comes to the idea of legalizing cannabis.

“I think this is the first year we likely won’t see law enforcement standing up in opposition, which they have in the past,” Kaltenbach said. “I think it’s a matter of not if but when [in terms of legalization], and they want a seat at the table to help craft the legislation.”

Some senators have personal connections to people who have suffered from drug abuse problems, which makes them worry about legalizing cannabis, and it appears others still believe in myths pushed during the War on Drugs. Kaltenbach said there are multiple reasons legalization would benefit New Mexico.

“We are a border state, so the issues surrounding cartels are very real in our state,” Kaltenbach said. Studies have shown legalizing cannabis reduces cartel activity, as people buy legal cannabis instead of black market cannabis. Kaltenbach said legalization would very likely do more to reduce cartel activity than a border wall would.

“Our state has, for decades, struggled with a very high overdose death rate, so we’d like to see some of the revenue go to supporting prevention and education and health treatment to reduce overdoses,” Kaltenbach said.

Studies have also found that states that legalize cannabis tend to have fewer opioid-related overdoses, as many people tend to use cannabis for pain rather than addictive opioids.

Kaltenbach said it’s going to be a challenge to get legalization through the Senate, but she thinks it can happen. If it doesn’t happen this time, they’re definitely going to keep fighting until it does.