According to the Drug Policy Alliance, a majority of New Mexicans think marijuana should be regulated and taxed, while 57 percent say penalties and a jail time should be reduced for possession of small amounts.
"The dramatic shifts we've seen on the national level regarding marijuana penalty reduction are also reflected in our state. The money spent arresting, incarcerating, and prosecuting adults for simple marijuana possession could be better spent elsewhere," said Emily Kaltenbach, state director for the Drug Policy Alliance.
The poll, conducted this month, asked 514 voters whether New Mexico should reduce adult possession of small amounts from a misdemeanor to a civil penalty - effectively decriminalizing it. Fifty-seven percent agreed, while 40 percent said they strongly agreed. That's good, so do we.The poll also pitched the question of whether or not marijuana should be regulated "like alcohol" - a message we've heard more and more of, especially in New Mexico's northerly neighbor, Colorado where voters approved Amendment 64 pushed by the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol campaign.
Also interesting is how the study shows that as many as 40 percent of voters polled said their state legislators wouldn't do a damn thing about decriminalizing marijuana. New Mexico senators and representatives take notice: thirty-one percent said they would be more likely to vote you into office if you ran on a marijuana reform platform.
Not surprisingly, young people and democrats favored marijuana reform more so than old people and republicans. Sixty-one percent of voters between 18 and 64 agreed, while only 40 percent of those 65 and up agreed with reworking existing marijuana laws.
According to the Drug Policy Alliance, there were 3,277 marijuana possession arrests in New Mexico in 2010 alone. That's about one-third of all drug arrests in that state, with one county - Dona Ana - being especially bad with 28 percent of all marijuana-related arrests. The state currently spends about $5 million on marijuana enforcement alone.
There is hope, though. As we told you earlier this month, several bills are going before the New Mexico state legislature this year including House Bill 465 which would make possession of an ounce or less a civil penalty with a $50 maximum fine. Her bill would also lessen penalties for larger amounts up to eight ounces. Another bill from State Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino would require the state to conduct a financial study on what impact legalizing and regulating small amounts of marijuana would have at the state level.
New Mexico State Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino
Currently the penalty for possession of an ounce or less is 15 days in jail and a $100 fine. Possession of over an ounce but under eight ounces is a misdemeanor as well, with up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine. More than eight ounces is a felony, with up a year-and-a-half in jail. Cultivation of any amount is a felony, with up to nine years in prison and a $10,000 fine.