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Is cannabis farming next for our area?

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“We’re counting on you to grow all the cannabis we need for northern New Mexico,” Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis told the Las Cruces City Council at its Jan. 13 work session.

Las Cruces city councilors were discussing the impact on Las Cruces if the state Legislature legalizes the adult (21 and older) use of recreational cannabis in New Mexico during the 2020 legislative session that begins Jan. 21.

Davis, who chaired Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s 2019 Marijuana Legalization Workgroup, said Albuquerque and Santa Fe don’t have space to grow the marijuana needed to fill the demand created by legalization. Luna County is already one of the state’s largest medical marijuana growers, Davis said, and Otero County is home to the state’s largest (200 acres) medical-marijuana farm. 

Davis said legalization will create 11,000 jobs statewide and is supported by 75 percent of New Mexicans, including 78 percent of Las Crucens. 11 states have already legalized recreational cannabis, he said. New Mexico, he said, was the first state (2007) to legalize medical marijuana, followed by 46 other states.

Legalization will include taxes on marijuana production to fund additional law enforcement and job training, as well as education and product testing, Davis said, adding that it will take the state two years to set up a recreational cannabis program if and when it is legalized.

Las Cruces Police Department Deputy Chief Paul Brock said there is not a significant amount of data available on the impact of legalization. But, “everything is up from what I’m reading,” he said, including crime rates, juvenile possession, driving under the influence and homelessness. Brock said legalization would also impact officer training and recruitment and other aspects of law enforcement.

Mayor Ken Miyagishima said he is opposed to the legalization of recreational marijuana. Sheriff Kim Stewart also is opposed.

“We can’t ignore that marijuana is already in our communities and has been for a long time,” Councilor Gabe Vasquez said. The challenge for Las Cruces, he said, is to be prepared when the legislature legalizes recreational marijuana with regard to law enforcement, economic development and social justice.

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