What’s Subsequent After New Mexico Legalized Leisure Marijuana?
EL PASO, Texas (border report) – Javier Martinez recalls the confused faces of a group of voters when he introduced marijuana legalization at pizza dinners in southeast New Mexico.
“The looks were like, ‘Why the hell are you doing this?'” Recalled the Democratic State representative from Albuquerque. It was a tough crowd, including immigrants from Mexico, where drug cartels are killing thousands and billions benefiting from illegal marijuana exports.
His argument? If you make it legal on the US side, if you regulate our growers and set clear rules for our retailers, the cartels on the Mexican side will get stuck with their illegal crops.
“We had about two and a half hours of discussion. […] Yes, that includes economic development. Yes, it is for tax purposes. But for me it’s about getting these drug cartels out of business, ”he said. When he left everyone was on the table on board.
It wasn’t the first time the University of New Mexico law school graduate relied on his knowledge of the U.S.-Mexico border to get things done. He has made efforts to improve health care and education in low-income communities, similar to the ones he grew up in.
For most of the first eight years of his life in Juarez, Mexico, Martinez, born in El Paso, Texas, offered a unique perspective on the drug problem with which he led the legislative effort that led to the enactment of recreational marijuana use in New Mexico bills . Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed these bills last month.
“I firmly believe that we cannot win the war on drugs, especially not with the strategies we have used over the past 60 years. You can’t fight violence with violence, ”he said. In the case of cannabis […] As New Mexico becomes another state to be legalized, it is putting pressure on the federal government to legalize at the federal level. I believe that once that happens it will deal a serious blow to the international drug trade. “
Martinez says he’s not buying the argument that marijuana is a gateway drug that gets users to experiment and then get involved with tougher drugs like heroin or meth. And he doesn’t see users as criminals.
“The next step is to see drug use as a public health problem rather than a criminal problem. If we allow people to seek treatment and recover, we can really put an end to international drug trafficking, ”he said.
Applications for production licenses will appear this summer
Efforts to legalize marijuana in New Mexico have been around for a long time. But with a growing list of states rushing to hit the cannabis economy, New Mexico lawmakers got to work in 2021.
“We entered the 2021 meeting with what we believe to be the best version of the bill. Time was running out in the (State) Senate. If we had 36 hours left, we would have made it. When the governor called a special meeting, it literally took 36 hours to finish, ”Martinez said.
Most of the 17 states that have legalized cannabis use have done so through specific voting. In New Mexico, advocates set about making sure they had voters on board and then put the bill forward for direct vote.
“We’ve had feedback from people across the state for the past five years. I’ve met people here and there. Allies of mine have done the same in other parts of the state. It was really a love job, ”he said.
New Mexico State Rep. Javier Mertinez, D-Albuquerque
But the time for back pats is over; New Mexico officials have less than a year to license growers and open the first pharmacies.
The state on Monday completed the nomination process for its cannabis advisory commission, which is chaired by a state-appointed superintendent. Applications for production licenses are submitted in July and through September. Manufacturing, retail, research and testing, courier and other licenses should be available by January 2022.
“By April 2022 at the latest, we will see retail sales, you will start seeing pharmacies in your community,” Martinez said, but warned that they must comply with local zoning ordinances. “You can’t just have a pharmacy in the middle of your neighborhood.”
Albuquerque lawmakers said that communities in southern New Mexico near the Texas border – places like Sunland Park and Las Cruces – are in a unique position to benefit from El Paso County’s “pedestrian traffic”.
“The communities down there are likely to see an increase in tourism,” he said. “I hope all of these diners and people who run bars and entertainment venues and what doesn’t get done because that’s going to bring more traffic to your community, like it does in Colorado.”
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