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It’s time to end failed war on cannabis

New Mexico has an opportunity to again catch up with the majority of its Western neighbors if it decides to legalize recreational cannabis in the 2020 legislative session.

Here in the Land of Mañana, we are unfortunately used to being last. We trail behind the economies and progressive policies that have made our neighboring states more prosperous and better able to provide the basic services, infrastructure and quality of life that people deserve.

But that is changing.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the Democratic-controlled Legislature are embracing change and planting the seeds for a more diversified, sustainable and healthy economy, an economy that’s not wholly dependent on the unpredictable, toxic economy of fossil fuel production.

That change beckons resistance from those who benefit from the current economy, those who are financially well off and see little need for change. Those who would rather preserve their own quality of life and the status quo.

Legalizing cannabis is part of this new, radical strategy to diversify the state’s economy, create nearly 11,000 jobs and jump-start a brand new small-business economy that could benefit every corner of the state.

But are we too old school to see this change through? We hope not.

Along with several of our colleagues on the Las Cruces City Council, we strongly support the legalization of cannabis in New Mexico. We are impressed with the body of work produced by the governor’s marijuana legalization work group, which includes the input and expertise of a multitude of stakeholders, including civil rights, medical professionals and law enforcement officials.

The report carefully and honestly assesses a variety of different challenges, opportunities and legalization scenarios and makes well-reasoned recommendations that would make New Mexico’s recreational cannabis law one of the strongest in the nation.

Considerations and concessions for clear labeling and robust testing, law enforcement training and resources, social equity and small-business opportunity, local control and local revenue – as well as maintaining and enhancing the medical cannabis program – make up what we think is the best bill lawmakers can put together. We are especially pleased that local governments can choose where they would like to invest additional tax dollars in their communities and that existing criminal records for low-level marijuana possession would be expunged.

The war on cannabis has been a disaster, especially for communities of color in New Mexico and across the country, and it’s time to end the practice of targeting and criminalizing people of color for using a substance more benign than alcohol, simply because cannabis is not socially accepted.

It is clear that New Mexicans are ready to move forward with this proposal, with more than 73 percent of residents polled stating that they’re supportive of legalizing cannabis in the 2020 legislative session. The support is even stronger in Las Cruces, where nearly 78 percent of residents state they support this effort, in sharp contrast to our mayor’s opposition.

Well, mañana is here, and new elected leaders that reflect a changing New Mexico are ready to drive that change. The time is now to legalize cannabis.

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