SANTA FE — Kyle Williamson — special agent in charge of the El Paso division of the Drug Enforcement Administration — said Thursday that legalizing recreational marijuana could worsen crime and drug abuse in New Mexico.
In an interview, Williamson said he has a responsibility to educate the public about the potential harms of marijuana amid legislative efforts to legalize it in some states. His division investigates drug trafficking and enforces the nation’s drug laws in New Mexico and West Texas.
Marijuana, Williamson said, will remain illegal under federal law — creating the potential for federal prosecution — regardless of whether New Mexico adopts legislation legalizing it.
“We’re not going to turn our head away from it just because it is” legalized in state law, he said.
Williamson described Albuquerque as one of the most violent cities in the country, and he said New Mexico has had a worse-than-average problem with drug abuse. People should also expect the homeless population to climb, he said, if recreational marijuana is legal.
A recent report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found that New Mexico had the nation’s largest percentage increase in homelessness last year, an increase of 27%.
“When you have all these issues,” Williamson said, “why do you want to exacerbate the problem and legalize a drug that has the potential for harms that it does have?”
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is asking New Mexico lawmakers this year to approve legislation legalizing, taxing and regulating recreational cannabis for adults.
A legalization proposal narrowly passed the state House last year but died in the Senate.