What Are the Other Democrats Smoking?
Let’s get real.
Naturally, I expect Gov. 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 Gov. 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 or 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.