A new survey released Friday shows almost 3 in 4 New Mexicans support legalizing recreational marijuana. The poll comes a month before the start of a legislative session in which the governor is expected to back a bill aiming to do just that.

Seventy-three percent of New Mexico voters support legalization, with 52 percent supporting it “strongly,” according to a survey conducted by polling company Change Research and commissioned by a cannabis working group set up by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Support increased to 75 percent after respondents read about recommendations made by the task force.

Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis, who led the working group, pointed to a data point from the survey showing 73 percent of respondents would support the sale of marijuana in their own communities, though only 39 percent would “very or somewhat likely to purchase cannabis products themselves.”

“This is not a stoner-led movement,” Davis said. “This is real people who see an opportunity that we’re not taking advantage of.”

The results revealed stronger support for legalization than in a poll conducted in 2016 by the Albuquerque Journal, which reported 61 percent of voters would support a proposal to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana.

After months of meetings, the cannabis task force issued recommendations in October related to everything from labeling and testing recreational marijuana products to enforcing illegal sales, collecting licensing fees and taxes, and implementing a social equity program meant to ameliorate the impact of years of unequal drug enforcement in poorer communities.

Among the proposals, the report urges state lawmakers to expunge convictions for charges of marijuana possession, allow people with previous drug convictions to receive marijuana business licenses and allow small-scale “microbusiness” licenses — similar to microbrewing licenses for craft beer.

Marijuana has been legalized for recreational use in 11 states and the District of Columbia. Unlike most of these states — all but Illinois and Vermont — the push for legal pot in New Mexico isn’t being driven through a citizen ballot initiative. Instead, Lujan Grisham has said she intends to make a cannabis bill a priority for the 30-day legislative session that begins Jan. 21.

In the last session, a bill that would have legalized cannabis was passed by the House but stalled in the Senate Finance Committee. And the opposition of Republicans and more conservative Democrats in the Senate remains a formidable challenge for a future bill.

Davis said he believes polls like the one released Friday could help shift some perspectives among lawmakers.

“New Mexicans are far ahead of the actual Legislature on this,” he said. “I do think it helps for legislators who were opposed to it but might have believed a few years ago that their constituents were opposed to it.”

According to the poll, 55 percent of voters also said they would be “much more likely” to support legalization if tax revenue from cannabis sales were used for mental health services and public education.

Change Research, a San Francisco-based polling company, carried out the online survey of 1,055 likely voters in New Mexico in 2020. The poll was conducted between Nov. 26 and Dec. 2. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percent.

The working group said a legal, adult-use market in New Mexico would generate more than 13,000 jobs, $850 million in annual sales and $100 million in annual revenue for state and local governments. The projections were estimates based on an assumption that the recreational market would develop in five years to six times the size of the state’s Medical Cannabis Program — which now serves about 75,000 patients.

The task force’s plan includes a $2.7 million low-income-patient subsidy fund “to assist those who qualify for public assistance” with access to medical cannabis and a $5.1 million annual “law enforcement fund.”

A Pew Research Center survey released in November showed two-thirds of Americans support legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

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Jens Gould covers politics for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He was a correspondent for Bloomberg News in Mexico City, a regular contributor for TIME in California, and produced the video series Bravery Tapes.

(4) comments

Nicoletta Munroe

Keep in mind that in the United States only 37% of the population possess a bachelor degree. In 1931 Aldous Huxley published the book Brave New World, in which the product 'Soma' is distributed to the people to control dissent. Study the costs that increase in law enforcement. Expanding rights to drug dealers is not a method to improve our economy. Because New Mexico hosts two energy labs, LANL and Sandia, we may be increasing the risk of liability in our quest for 'recreational'. Further, our population can not support the level of sales that are projected, thus we would be counting on tourists to generate revenue. The people whom visit our state are conservative thus we may lose our image and our precious visitors if we 'legalize'.

Khal Spencer

The Soma comment is a red herring. Uncle Sam is not handing out reefer to calm the population. Quite the contrary, as both political parties are doing their best to raise tensions. Maybe a little pot to go with the bourbon would be a good idea.

New Mexico is not entitled to hold the general population to a standard required by the Federal labs or military bases. We should legalize and join the other states that have done so. Sooner or later Congress will get the message.

If you work in a place that holds to Federal drug laws, obey them.

Scott Smart

Politicians are supposed to represent the voters. If this poll is accurate it will be interesting to see how the politicians respond in terms of passing legislation related to this topic

Khal Spencer

We've been fighting and losing the War on Drugs for a century. Casualties include civil liberties and ruined lives. Legalize marijuana and tax it like we do alcohol. It makes no sense that I can kick back with a glass of scotch and have full government approval but I can go to jail or lose my job if I smoke dope. Let's put Reefer Madness back in the comedy section of the movie store.

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