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LA CRUCES CITY COUNCIL

City council supports cannabis legalization; mayor opposed

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The Las Cruces City Council voted six-one in favor of a resolution supporting the Cannabis Regulation Act, a bill introduced at the 2020 New Mexico legislative session by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham that would legalize the recreational use of cannabis.

The vote came at the council’s Feb. 3 regular meeting.

Mayor Ken Miyagishima opened discussion of the resolution by again expressing his strong opposition to legalization, saying the proposed bill is “the most irresponsible legislation the legislature has put forward” in the 30 years he has been involved in politics.

“Legalizing cannabis will create another set of behavioral issues,” Miyagishima said. “Can you guarantee that if this was to pass that there would be no deaths that would result from this? Why would we want to risk that? That’s what I just don’t understand. For money? Our job is to help our public, to protect our public.”

Because the proposed legislation includes regulation of the use of recreational cannabis, “we may lose a life not passing this bill,” Councilor Gill Sorg said. “THC (the principal constituent of cannabis that impacts brain function) does have to be regulated,” he said.

“It’s really our young people who are disproportionately targeted” by the continued criminalization of cannabis, Councilor Gabe Vasquez said.

“The war on cannabis has been a disaster, especially in communities of color,” Vasquez said, reading a statement he co-authored with Councilor Johana Bencomo. Nearly three-quarters of people polled in New Mexico support legalization of cannabis, Vasquez said, and nearly 78 percent in Las Cruces are in support.

Decriminalization is “just one step closer to restoring the dignity of people of color” that has been stolen over the years, Bencomo said.

“I know this is a very heated topic,” Councilor Tessa Abeyta Stuve said. “I also think that we won’t change anything if we just stay the same.”

“I know you guys will be working hard to pass it,” Miyagishima said to his fellow councilors. “I will be working hard to defeat it.”

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