COMMENTARY: State Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, is once again attempting to legalize the sale and use of marijuana in New Mexico. He will once again introduce legislation in the upcoming 2018 New Mexico legislative session to put it on the ballot as a constitutional amendment for voter approval.
That means getting a majority of legislators to agree to putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot for voter approval.
Senator Otiz y Pino needs a majority in both the Senate and the House to place the measure on the ballot for voters to decide.
For a number of years, Ortiz y Pino’s his efforts to place the issue on the ballot have failed.
Governor Suzana Martinez would not be involved and could not veto the legislation because it would be a constitutional amendment.
It is very disappointing when the New Mexico Legislature feels the need to seek constitutional amendments for voter approval for the sake of bypassing Governor Martinez because of her “my way or the highway” philosophy.
In any representative form of government, people are elected to make the best decisions they can based on the facts and needs of their constituents.
During the 2017 legislative session, Ortiz y Pino’s resolution was tabled in committee when two Democrats expressed opposition. The Democrats who opposed the legislation both argued they knew people with drug problems. The argument was made that pot is an “entry level drug” for harder drug abuse.
The same argument can be made that alcohol is also entry level drug, and “prohibition” failed in this country years ago.
The truth is, our war on drugs has been a miserable failure in this country, especially when it comes to pot, and that is coming from someone who has prosecuted narcotics cases.
“Legalize, regulate and tax recreational marijuana” is the real message of Senator Ortiz y Pino, and it is one that should be listened to by all.
I am not sure Senator Ortiz y Pino completely understood the implications of what he was saying when he said, “Legalizing marijuana wouldn’t make it more available. It’s already available. Any high school kid worth their salt can find marijuana within a half-hour.”
That may be true if the kid has a dealer at school he can contact — who will probably have more than just recreational pot for sale.
Keep underage kids and the availability of drugs out of the argument.
Senator Ortiz y Pino argues the goal is to legalize, regulate and control the pot more effectively, and legalization would significantly boost the New Mexico economy.
If the senator’s goal is truly to legalize, regulate and control the drug as he claims, then he should draft comprehensive legislation to do just that and get it approved by the Legislature with simple majority votes.
State senators and state representatives need to voice their true position on the issue and not just pass it on to voters. Get the candidates for governor and those running for the Legislature to take a stand.
In all likelihood Governor Martinez, the former Doña Ana County district attorney, will veto the legislation.
At this point in time no one should really care about what Governor Martinez has to say. She will be leaving office in a year and we will have a new governor and a new Legislature on Jan. 1, 2019.
Healthy debate on comprehensive legislation in the 2018 session could be a pre-cursory to drafting viable legislation and adopting it the following year.
After a healthy debate, Martinez just may change her mind on legalization for the sake of having accomplished at least one thing during her eight years as governor.
Governor Martinez should seriously consider how she will make a living after she leaves elective office. Martinez could apply for a dispenser’s license and go into business with former Governor Gary Johnson and sell and market pot as “NM Governor’s Choice.”