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Las Cruces mayor opposes marijuana legalization in NM

LAS CRUCES – As New Mexico faces the prospect of legalizing marijuana for recreational use, the left-leaning Las Cruces City Council at a Monday work session was unsurprisingly supportive, with a notable exception: Mayor Ken Miyagishima.

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Miyagishima told the Sun-News on Wednesday that a legalization bill would be the “most irresponsible” legislation he has ever seen passed during his more than 20 years in New Mexico government.

Miyagishima voiced his staunch opposition after the council listened to a legalization policy proposal from Pat Davis, an Albuquerque city councilor. Davis chaired a work group appointed by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to put together a series of policy recommendations for pot’s proposed legalization.

“This just seems backwards to me,” Miyagishima said of the plan during the work session.

New Mexico has allowed medical cannabis for certain conditions since 2007. Lujan Grisham plans to push for full legalization during the upcoming legislative session. A bill was filed in the state Senate Jan. 16 ahead of the session.

While councilors Gill Sorg, Gabriel Vasquez, Yvonne Flores and Johana Bencomo signaled strong support for the legalization effort, Miyagishima noted aloud that he was outnumbered on the council but spoke about his reservations.

“I’m not supportive of this,” Miyagishima said. “It took me a long time to support CBD. And I finally relented on the medical marijuana.”

CBD is an abbreviation of cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive compound derived from the cannabis plant. It’s often found in oils that advertise alleviation of pain or anxiety.

Miyagishima approves of medical use, saying he has seen the benefits to cancer patients and for users with chronic pain, calling the medical industry “somewhat controlled.”

But he said full legalization makes him worried about crime increasing, the higher potency of the drug compared to the past and teens using it while pregnant as a way to deal with nausea.

He said his worries stem from talking to a former mayor from Colorado, one of the first states to have legalized recreational pot back in 2012. The former mayor told Miyagishima that parents dropping kids off at school are often high, he said, and Realtors have trouble getting the smell out of homes they’re trying to resell.

It seemed to Miyagishima like a self-fulfilling endeavor, he said at the session, in which the state legalizes recreational weed and gives the revenue to public safety to train them to handle drugged drivers.

He referenced remarks by former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has said he regretted legalization. Colorado’s legalization was done by ballot initiative; New Mexico would do so by legislation.

District 2 Councilor Tessa Abeyta Stuve said during the session she was torn on legalization, with her main worry as a parent being kids getting hold of marijuana.

District 1 Councilor Kasandra Gandara supports the overall proposal, but mentioned it wasn’t a black and white issue. She said her son uses medical marijuana for anxiety and depression.

Gandara said she’s concerned about how legalization would affect child welfare and families. She also wants to see more scientific research to examine the effects of legalization.

Even if the city wanted, the current legalization proposal won’t allow local governments to prohibit recreational sales within their jurisdiction, as has been done in other states, to prevent pockets of illicit markets from flourishing.

Under the proposal, Las Cruces and other municipalities would still be able to wield its zoning authority to control the number of marijuana shops allowed in an area as well as in which areas they can set up shop.

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