CC BY Matthew Kenwrick
What Are the Other Democrats Smoking?
Let’s get real.
Naturally, I expect Governor Martinez to oppose the decriminalization of marijuana: She never met a new activity she didn’t want to prosecute.
But at a candidate forum for governor several weeks ago, I was surprised that I was the only Democratic candidate embracing legalization as a reasonable solution to the complex problem of how to deal with the reality of marijuana use in our community.
My opponents—even the two who said they supported putting the issue on the ballot for voters to decide—still seemed to act as if the very question were a referendum on whether you actually support the use of marijuana. (And Attorney General Gary King even described marijuana as a gateway drug.)
Advocating a policy to legalize marijuana has no relevance to how you feel about toking up. I support people’s right to vote Republican, even if I’ve never done it myself.
For one thing, pot’s here, whether you like it or not. So it’s not a question of keeping it or getting rid of it because the latter isn’t an option, even if you wanted to; just ask the folks responsible for the federal government’s war on drugs). It’s just a question of what you do about the pot that’s already here—in every community across this state.
But the more important point is this: the writing is on the wall. Colorado and Washington state started it, and the rest of America will follow eventually. Why shouldn’t New Mexico be in the vanguard, instead of bringing up the rear?
If you’re reading this, chances are you agree because most New Mexicans get it. It’s the politicians who are behind the curve in comprehending the enormous advantages of regulating and taxing marijuana use. So for their benefit, let’s quickly review.
Job creation: For all the talk from my Democratic opponents about creating jobs, the production and sale of small amounts of marijuana would create great jobs and drive that industry out of the shadows. Just ask entrepreneurs and small businesses in Colorado what it’s done for their bottom lines.
Tax revenue: We all want to invest more in education and health care. We all want to tackle our water problems. And we all want to help our rural and tribal communities. Ask Governor Hickenlooper in Colorado what taxing marijuana has meant to his state’s bottom line.
Cost savings: Law enforcement resources would be freed up to go after real criminals, and we could drastically reduce our incarceration rates—saving money and eliminating the collateral damage to so many families because of the unnecessary imprisonment of their husband, mother, child, brother.
Social justice: Existing marijuana laws disproportionately punish our young people and minorities. Is it worth having a law on the books that sacrifices the hopes and dreams of too many of our youth and people of color?
Most of us know all that already. But that’s the shame of our political process: It’s too easy for politicians to equivocate. Saying that you support putting legalization or decriminalization on the ballot for voters to decide is not the same as saying you support legalization. We shouldn’t have to go to the voters every time elected officials won’t spine up and do their jobs (see Wage, Minimum).
I call on all my fellow Democratic candidates for governor to step up and do what’s right for New Mexico. Jobs, revenue, cost savings and more and better treatment for serious drug abuse will all come with legalization of marijuana. It is no longer theoretical: States like Colorado and Washington are proving it.
In this upcoming election, those who want your vote should tell you exactly what they plan to do, not deflect the tough issues. So let me be clear: I support legalization of marijuana. As for the rest of my colleagues running for the Democratic nomination for governor? I have no idea.
Of Primary Importance
A closed primary is a private primary. Yet it's 100 percent paid for by taxpayers, nearly a quarter of whom are independents who are [effectively] barred from participating.
Observers of our polarized democracy often blame these closed party primaries for producing some of our most extreme politicians and policies. To compound the problem, our voting districts are gerrymandered every 10 years by the current party in power and the lines drawn for the party to increase their power—not to increase voter turnout or diversify voter representation.
Currently in New Mexico, 22 percent of all registered voters can’t vote in the primary election (19 percent DTS [Decline to State] and 3 percent registered with the two alternative parties). Even those "allowed" to vote are offered an abridged ballot with only half of all options presented on their ballots. But there is a cure.
A top-two, open primary would allow all registered voters the right to vote in a primary election. There would be only one ballot for all voters regardless of party affiliation. The top-two vote-getters go on to the general election. This would force candidates to make a broader appeal resulting in more moderate candidates willing to compromise for the greater good of all Americans, rather than the members of their own political party.
As things stand currently, the Republican and Democratic parties determine our talking points, the issues we are allowed to vote on, and fuel the war between the parties. Ours is a system focused not on collective problem-solving but on a struggle for power between two private organizations. Party activists control access to the ballot through closed party primaries, and partisan leaders design Congressional districts. Once elected to Congress, our representatives are divided into warring camps. Partisans decide which bills to take up, what witnesses to hear, what amendments to allow.
It has become increasingly popular and justified to criticize the performance of Congress over the last 20 years, even as the basic architecture of our electoral process fuels polarization among members with partisan-driven closed primaries and gerrymandering/redistricting.
In his farewell speech to the nation in 1796, President George Washington provided what has proven to be remarkable insight warning about the influence of political parties. These parties, Washington penned, “serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of the party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community.” More than 200 years later, Washington’s words are startlingly accurate.
We elect our leaders, and then they govern in a system that makes cooperation almost impossible and incivility nearly inevitable—a system in which the campaign season never ends and the struggle for party advantage trumps all other consideration including what is truly best for America and its citizens.
What matters today is the restoration of American democracy: giving voters the fullest range of options and choices when it comes to selecting their leaders.
RE: “New Mexico’s Least-impressive legend”
@ STANTZ: "We're going down into the sewer system to see if we can trace the source of the psycho-reactive slime flow. We thought you might want to come along."
VENKMAN: "Darn it! I wish I'd known you were going. I'm stuck with these damn dinner reservations."—Thane Morgan
@ Beautiful story ... I might have ADHD after the stunning laundry list of visuals.—Dakota Clearwater Lacroix
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