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Pot task force raises money to fund polling

SANTA FE – A task force established by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to study marijuana legalization is raising money to pay for polling on the issue.

The group held a small fundraising event at the Downs racetrack last week during the State Fair in Albuquerque.

Pat Davis, an Albuquerque city councilor and chairman of the cannabis legalization working group, said about 10 to 20 people attended the event, including people interested in marijuana legalization or involved in cannabis production.

Donations at the fundraiser went to the Angelica Foundation, a nonprofit group that provides grants for progressive causes. The foundation, in turn, will pay for the polling.

The cannabis working group, Davis said, is a citizen initiative that has to raise its own money.

The governor was clear from the beginning, he said, that she “didn’t want to use public dollars for this process.”

As a private nonprofit group, the Angelica Foundation isn’t subject to the same disclosure requirements imposed on political action committees or a government agency. The group didn’t respond to a message from the Journal this week.

Davis said he expects the money to pay for polling that may guide policymakers on some of the “sticky-widget issues” involved in cannabis legalization.

“We’ve got to be able to show where New Mexico is on this,” he said.

Tripp Stelnicki, a spokesman for Lujan Grisham, said the task force was designed to be a community-driven effort.

“The councilor and the task force want to ensure they are in step with what the people want; it’s not in any sense an influencing mechanism, it’s a means of gauging public opinion,” he said.

Lujan Grisham established the cannabis group in June to study and recommend a regulatory structure for legalizing recreational marijuana for adults in New Mexico. The governor has said she wants safeguards to prevent use by children, protect the medical marijuana program, and address workplace intoxication and driving under the influence.

The task force has held public meetings throughout the state and is set to wrap up its work next week.

Its membership includes state officials, cannabis producers, patients and others.

Lujan Grisham, a Democrat elected last year, plans to add marijuana legalization to the Legislature’s agenda for the 30-day session that begins in January.

A marijuana legalization proposal narrowly passed the House this year but stalled in the Senate.

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