Do you know where your candidates stand on marijuana policy?
New Mexico’s General Election Day is less than one week away, and early voting has already begun! If you are registered to vote, you may cast your ballot early through Saturday, November 3.
Here’s a look at where gubernatorial candidates stand on marijuana policy: Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has said she would support legalizing and regulating marijuana for adults’ use under certain circumstances, while Steve Pearce (R) remains unsupportive. Both candidates are supportive of New Mexico’s medical marijuana program.
Check out the state’s website here for more voting information, including where you can cast your ballot. You can find more information on current marijuana policy in New Mexico here.
Please forward this to your family and friends, and be sure to get out and vote!
Yesterday, Albuquerque, New Mexico Mayor Tim Keller signed an ordinance that decriminalizes simple possession of marijuana under city law.
Once the ordinance goes into effect, the city’s penalty for under an ounce of marijuana will be a $25 civil fine. It will go into effect five days after it is published by the city clerk. Council members Pat Davis and Isaac Benton sponsored the ordinance, which passed the council in a 5-4 vote.
Police Chief Mike Geier voiced his support, saying, ”This new legislation allows officers to focus on violent crime, property crime and drunk driving.”
It will still be possible for a person to be charged under the statewide penalty — a fine of up to $50, up to 15 days in jail, or both. If you are a New Mexico resident, please let your state legislators know you want the state follow suit and stop criminalizing marijuana consumers.
Earlier this year, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez vetoed H.B. 527, which would have strengthened and expanded the state’s medical cannabis program. Among other changes, the bill would have created legal protections for agency staff and employees of labs, product manufacturers, and others; added protections for patients visiting from other medical cannabis states; and expanded qualifying medical conditions.
Patients and their families then called on Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher to adopt similar provisions, which the Medical Cannabis Advisory Board had already recommended. Despite the support of the board and the Legislature, Secretary Gallagher announced that she is rejecting most of the recommended changes, while reserving judgment on some issues.
Although this development is deeply disappointing, the fight isn’t over. Marijuana policy reform is always a difficult battle, but across the country, medical programs continue to expand while public support grows stronger.
Thanks to the hard work of advocates like our colleagues at the Drug Policy Alliance and other committed activists, an enormous amount of progress has already been made in New Mexico — which was the first state to explicitly allow medical marijuana for PTSD. With continued determination, more improvements will surely be on the horizon.
MPP has formally endorsed Libertarian Party nominee and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson in the race for president. Johnson is one of two candidates who received an "A+" grade in MPP's presidential candidate report card.
Below is a statement from our Executive Director, Rob Kampia, that contextualizes MPP's endorsement.
"MPP is a single-issue organization, and our mission is simple: 'Regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol in the United States.' We don't take a position -- and we therefore don't take into account a candidate's position -- on other issues, such as abortion, guns, gay rights, Iraq, taxes, or Social Security. We also don't work in Canada or Portugal.
"Of the three presidential candidates who will appear on the ballot in all 50 states and D.C., Gary Johnson clearly has the best position on marijuana policy. When he first advocated for legalization in 1999, he was the highest-ranking public official in the U.S. to do so -- as the sitting Republican governor of New Mexico, no less.
"Shortly after he left office, Johnson and I drove around New England lobbying the governors of VT and RI, the speaker of the NH House, and staffers in the NY governor's office. Johnson is a forceful advocate for legalization and is still one of MPP's strongest allies.
"Legalization has been Johnson's number-one issue for 17 years. MPP's endorsement of Johnson was an easy call; the more difficult question is whether MPP should support a candidate who's good on medical marijuana but bad on legalization, when the candidate is facing an opponent who's bad on everything.
"It's fine if voters prefer to consider a candidate's marijuana position in the context of a dozen other positions, but that's not MPP's mission. We're narrowly focused on marijuana policy and are happy to work alongside anyone who shares our mission, whether they're Socialists, Republicans, or otherwise."
SB 383 would have replaced criminal penalties for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana with a $50 civil fine. It also would have removed the possibility of jail time for possession of up to eight ounces. Although SB 383 passed the Senate with a bipartisan vote, the House did not take it up. It is disappointing that the New Mexico House chose not to review a bill that would have reduced the punishment for individuals who possessed a substance safer than alcohol.
Time ran out not only on decriminalization — but also, fortunately, on a harmful bill that would have unfairly targeted marijuana consumers. HB 120 would have declared anyone with an extremely small amount of THC per milliliter of blood guilty of driving under the influence — even if the person could prove they were actually not impaired! HB 120 passed in the House, but did not receive a vote in the Senate.
Last November, voters in Bernalillo and Santa Fe Counties in New Mexico weighed in on whether to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. They responded with overwhelming support, with Bernalillo County voting 60% and Santa Fe County voting 73% in favor. Now, legislators from across the state have the opportunity to act on the will of their constituents. SB 383, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Cervantes, reduces the penalty for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana to a civil penalty of $50.
This common-sense policy will save the state time, money, and resources, while also improving public safety. Millions of dollars every year are wasted on processing thousands of low-level, nonviolent marijuana offenders. It takes time for police to book marijuana users, prosecutors to try cases, and labs to test marijuana. This is an egregious waste of law enforcement’s limited resources, which could be better spent addressing more pressing public safety needs.
Support is growing for more sensible marijuana policies in the state Senate. Just last week, the Rules Committee approved of Sen. Ortiz y Piño’s resolution to place a question on the ballot asking voters to end marijuana prohibition. Please email your legislators today and ask for their support on this long overdue reform.
Last week, New Mexico State Rep. Bill McCamley introduced HB 160, the Cannabis Revenue & Freedom Act. This bill would treat marijuana similarly to alcohol, allowing adults 21 and over to use, possess, and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana with no penalty. HB 160 would also set up a taxed and regulated market for marijuana production and sale.
While HB 160 is an important reform that should be passed, the New Mexico legislature is also considering another bill that would unfairly target marijuana consumers. HB 120 would declare anyone with an extremely small amount of THC per millimeter of blood guilty of driving under the influence — even if the person could prove they were actually not impaired! Although intoxicated driving should not be tolerated, knee jerk ideas like per se limits are unethical, unnecessary, and not supported by science.
If you are a New Mexico resident, please email your legislators and ask them to support sensible marijuana reform like HB 160.
According to a recent Gallup Poll, 51% of Americans favor making the use of marijuana legal — similar to the 50% who supported it in 2011 and 2012 — but down from 58% support last year.
The October 12-15 Gallup poll was conducted in the run-up to the midterm elections, in which various marijuana policy reform ballot measures were before voters in Alaska, Oregon, Washington D.C., and Florida, as well as in many cities in Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, and elsewhere.
Last year was the first time that Gallup found an overwhelming majority in favor of making marijuana legal, at a solid 58%. This year, however, support is shown to be at 51%, which is still a majority, though the percentage is closer to where it was in 2011 and 2012.
According to the communications director at the Marijuana Policy Project, Mason Tvert:
While most observers would agree there was solid majority support in 2013, many thought 58% was questionably high. Rarely, if ever, do you see public opinion on a controversial social issue jump as much as seven points in the course of one year. It will be interesting to see if the same opponents who declared such a large increase was impossible last year will have the same analysis of such a large decrease this year.
Things are moving in one direction when it comes to the tangible products of public opinion. I would take passage of laws in two states and our nation’s capital over some jumpy poll results any day. If Gallup finds 49% support in 2016 after five more states vote to end marijuana prohibition, I could live with that.
The bottom line is that public support for making the use of marijuana legal has clearly increased and continues to increase as more Americans recognize that it makes no sense to punish responsible adults for using a substance that is safer than alcohol. Four states, the nation’s capital, and two East Coast cities now legally allow the use of marijuana. It is clear that momentum is growing across the nation for marijuana policy reform.
According to a Drug Policy Alliance press release, just eight short months after the Federal Justice Department and Treasury Department announced new guidelines permitting banks to work with marijuana businesses, credit unions in New Mexico sent letters to nearly half of the state’s licensed medical marijuana producers stating that they will no longer accept their business and will proceed with closing their bank accounts.
The credit unions attest that they are unable to adhere to federal guidelines for servicing the medical marijuana business accounts. This move forces producers to operate on a cash-only payment system or leaves producers struggling to find another financial institution that is willing to accept their business.
“It is disappointing to see that the banking industry in New Mexico is failing to protect medical patients and small businesses in light of the assurances the federal administration has provided and a robust and thriving medical marijuana industry in the state,” said Emily Kaltenbach, state director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “This abrupt move has all of us asking why they are unexpectedly ceasing to do business with the marijuana industry in New Mexico. We would like to know why they are unable to comply with the federal guidelines.”
Ultimately, these legitimate medical marijuana businesses are being denied the same financial services afforded to other industries in every state, despite generating large amounts of tax revenue, particularly in Colorado and Washington. In the meantime, beginning today, all medical marijuana business transactions in New Mexico will be cash-only.
According to the Courthouse News Service, medical marijuana recommended by a physician for an injured patient’s pain must be paid for by the patient’s employer and insurer, the New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled.
Despite marijuana’s federal classification as a controlled substance, the court concluded that New Mexico law grants Gregory Vialpando reimbursement for medical marijuana to treat the high-intensity pain that followed failed spinal surgeries caused by a workplace back injury. As the ruling states, Vialpando met the required threshold for payments under New Mexico’s workers’ compensation laws when his physician diagnosed medical marijuana as reasonable and necessary for his treatment. The August 29 decision is based on a lower court finding that Vialpando’s participation in the New Mexico Department of Health’s Medical Cannabis Program constitutes reasonable and necessary medical care, the requirement set for reimbursement by the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act.
Vialpando’s employer at the time of the incident, Ben’s Automotive Services, and health care provider, Redwood Fire & Casualty, argued that medical marijuana should be treated as a prescription drug. If it were, it would require a pharmacist or health care provider to dispense, which New Mexico’s medical marijuana program does not have, and thus, could not be paid for by worker’s compensation.
However, the appeals court found that although “medical marijuana is not a prescription drug,” if it were, “our analysis would lead to the same conclusion.” “Indeed, medical marijuana is a controlled substance and is a drug. Instead of a written order from a health care provider, it requires the functional equivalent of a prescription – certification to the program. Although it is not dispensed by a licensed pharmacist or health care provider, it is dispensed by a licensed producer through a program authorized by the Department of Health,” the court wrote.
Vialpando’s employer and insurer also argued that reimbursements would force them to commit a federal crime, or at least violate federal public policy. The appeals court rejected that, as well.
“Although not dispositive, we note that the Department of Justice has recently offered what we view as equivocal statements about state laws allowing marijuana use for medical and even recreational purposes.”
In terms of the next steps for New Mexico’s medical marijuana policies, the state is heading in the right direction considering legalization.