SANTA FE – Sixty-one percent of New Mexicans surveyed this month said they support legalizing marijuana, and doing that would bump up state revenues by tens of millions of dollars, legalization supporters said Thursday.
“If it can get on the ballot, it’s going to pass,” said Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, who once again is sponsoring a constitutional change to legalize marijuana possession, regulate its production and sale, and tax it.
It’s at best an uphill battle for legalization supporters in the Legislature. His similar proposal couldn’t get through the Democratic-run Senate last year, and it’s highly likely the Republican-led House would reject it.
The telephone survey of 406 adults around the state was conducted by Research & Polling Inc. of Albuquerque and commissioned by the Drug Policy Alliance and a coalition of groups including licensed marijuana producers.
It showed 61 percent of respondents in support of legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana for adults 21 and over, and 34 percent opposed.
Support jumped – to 69 percent – when respondents were informed of the restrictions and potential uses for the revenue, health care programs and drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
Support was strongest among men, those under 65, voters registered as Democrats or as independents, and those not registered to vote.
The majority of adults were supportive in every major geographic region.
Research & Polling President Brian Sanderoff said the survey also showed a “tremendous level of support” – 71 percent – for the existing law, passed in 2007, allowing the use of marijuana for some medical conditions.
The Drug Policy Alliance said backing for marijuana legalization has grown since its 2013 survey, also done by Research & Polling, that put support at 52 percent – although the 2013 survey was of registered voters, while the recent survey was of adults generally.
Yet another poll, done by Research & Polling in 2014 for the Albuquerque Journal, showed 44 percent of likely voters in favor of a constitutional change to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana.
“The data is very impressive,” said Duke Rodriguez, former secretary of the Human Services Department under Republican Gov. Gary Johnson and former health care executive who now runs an Arizona-based company that grows medical marijuana in Bernalillo.
“Clearly, New Mexicans want to legalize and have adult use,” said Rodriguez, whose company was among a coalition that helped fund this month’s study.
He said New Mexico could experience the same “green rush” as Colorado and predicted 15,000 jobs could eventually be created.
“It’s money we desperately need, and it’s taking money out of the (drug) cartel and putting it back in the mainstream,” Rodriguez told a news conference.
Supporters estimate New Mexico could bring in between $20 million and $60 million annually by taxing marijuana.
Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, who is sponsoring a legalization bill, said the movement also could spark young people to be more interested in politics.
“Why would we not work on a policy that 87 percent of young people think is worth doing?” McCamley said, referring to one of the survey’s findings.
Fifty-one percent of survey respondents said they have used marijuana.
“My guess is it would be a few points higher” because some respondents might have been reluctant to answer that question truthfully, Sanderoff said.
The margin of error for the survey was plus or minus 4.9 percentage points, according to Research & Polling.
Ortiz y Pino is sponsoring two constitutional amendments, Senate Joint Resolutions 5 and 6. Senate Joint Resolution 5 would require that the revenue from taxing marijuana be used for Medicaid or for drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs. Senate Joint Resolution 6 doesn’t earmark the revenue.
McCamley’s legalization bill is House Bill 75.