State-funded poll reveals that three-fourths of New Mexico voters support legal weed

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

New insights into the level of support for recreational cannabis legalization in New Mexico has revealed that 75 percent of voters back the idea. This is based on the findings of a new poll, which was conducted by Change Research and commissioned by the Governor’s Legalization Working Group.

“In this day and age, getting 75-percent of people to agree on the day of the week is hard if we make it political,” said Albuquerque City Councilor and chairman of the Legalization Working Group, Pat Davis. “For this many New Mexicans to say it’s time to do this is remarkable. Support for legalization is stronger in New Mexico than any state polled this year.”

A total of 1,055 probable 2020 New Mexican voters participated in the survey, which kicked off on November 26 and concluded on December 2. Initially, before voters were provided with information pertaining to the topic of the poll, support for recreational cannabis legalization in New Mexico rested at 72 percent. The percentage climbed two percent when arguments supporting policy change were provided to them.

Support for cannabis legalization in New Mexico varies by partisan affiliation

Almost all Democrats support recreational cannabis legalization in New Mexico – 90 percent approve of the idea. Independents trail closely behind at 81 percent, followed by 49 percent of Republicans.

Many of the arguments for legalizing cannabis in New Mexico hone in on the fact that a new industry of this kind could bring the state much-needed funding through taxes. What’s more, legalizing cannabis in New Mexico could potentially create jobs and help tackle unemployment rates; 70 percent of voters aged 35 or under said they were interested in cannabis-related employment.

Opponents make the argument that there is a lack of research regarding the safety and medical efficacy of medical cannabis. Nonetheless, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced in 2019 that research applications would be prioritized for review. If more scientists are legally allowed to explore the therapeutic effects and potential dangers of using cannabis products, New Mexico’s opponents wouldn’t be left with much of an argument.

According to the survey data, anti-cannabis voters tend to be more influenced by religious leaders or law enforcement officials; as opposed to the supporters, who are more likely to be influenced by medical patients and doctors. Another contrasting aspect of voter opinion is the fact that pro-cannabis voters believe that cannabis tax revenue should be used to fund public education and mental health services. On the other hand, voters who do not want legal recreational cannabis in New Mexico would like the funds to be distributed generously among various areas of law enforcement.

Governor calls on House and Senate to consider cannabis legalization in New Mexico

A legislative session extending over 30 days runs from January 21, 2020 – February 20, 2020. Cannabis legalization in New Mexico will be considered at the legislative session, after Grisham urged the House and Senate to pay the subject close attention. In the event that New Mexico’s adult-use cannabis law is effectuated, the U.S. state will become the 12th to legalize the plant for recreational purposes. 

“This is not a stoner-led movement,” said Davis. “This is real people who see an opportunity that we’re not taking advantage of.”

Based on recent poll and survey data, Davis is right. Although 73 percent of survey respondents said that the back the idea of permitting legal adult-use cannabis sales in their cities or townships, just 39 percent said that they would be “very or somewhat likely” to buy recreational cannabis products for personal use. 

Something else that surprises is the fact that 56 percent of voters are not keen on the idea of cities opting out of selling the plant for recreational purposes. Even some opponents feel the same – 12 percent think that cities should not be able to opt out of selling adult-use cannabis. Conversely, 30 percent of pro-cannabis voters do not approve of the idea.

In spite of the growing support for legal weed in New Mexico, Gov. Grisham believes that a few obstacles lie ahead. Earlier in 2019, a cannabis legalization bill was approved by the House of Representatives. Although the bill received Grisham’s support, it stumbled on the Senate floor. A decriminalization bill was subsequently signed by Grisham in April 2019.

I think cannabis is going to be really hard—it should be,” she said during an interview with The Albuquerque Journal. “That is not something to run into without being really clear. If I have it on the call, I’m serious about getting it passed.”

The good news is that progress is being made. Various public hearings on cannabis legalization took place last year, resulting in the development of recommendations for New Mexico’s prospective recreational cannabis industry. Provisions included language pertaining to social equity permits, cannabis conviction expungements and tax exemptions.