The road to legalization can look very different from one state to another – and for some, it is much easier to accomplish than others. Where most states have the luxury of filing ballot initiatives, others are forced to wait it out until lawmakers decide to do something about it.
Ballot initiatives have so far been the only way that recreational legalization has taken place – however there is a lot of hope that this year will be the first where a state passes law through the legislation instead.
There are multiple states who are considering legalizing through the legislative process, so far the only state to see significant progress is Vermont, where a bill to legalize has passed through the Senate and awaits approval from the House.
Unfortunately, the chance for New Mexico to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016 is now lost. The proposed bill passed through two Senate committees before eventually being rejected with a 24-17 vote at the Senate floor. Of those who voted against legalization there were 18 republicans and 6 democrats – had they passed the bill it would have likely died in the House which holds a republican majority.
Had it passed, the bill would have legalized marijuana possession and use by adults 25 and older, it would be sold in retail stores and taxes and regulations would be implemented within the next year. The original wording would have set the age at 21 but an amendment adopted just before the vote changed the age to 25.
Along with legalizing personal use, the bill would have also legalized industrial hemp – grown from a slightly different form of the cannabis sativa plant. The uses for industrial hemp are nearly endless – this bill would have ended all the aspects of prohibition in the state, though definitely under slightly different regulations than other states.
During the debate prior to voting on the bill, those against legalization and those who were for it both had almost the same argument: crime rates. Those arguing against it fear that crime rates might increase with legalization – those in favor of legalization believe that it will reduce crime rate significantly.
Considering the overall crime rates have dropped in states which have legalized, the argument against it is very weak. They also used the rising potency of marijuana as a reason not to legalize, claiming that it makes it more addictive – even with proof that marijuana is a non-addictive substance!
In the end, there is still a lot to be worked on before New Mexico will see a recreational marijuana bill that everyone can agree on – however a poll shows 60% of the state’s citizens agree that it should be legal, which means they have more reason to consider it carefully.
“If we believe that America should be the land of the free, the only way to do it is to trust the people,” McSorley said.