There’s a 3 in 5 Chance That New Mexico’s Next Governor Will Back Legalization

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Things are looking up for cannabis advocates in New Mexico, as three of the five candidates in the gubernatorial race support legalizing the adult use of cannabis.

Despite the fact that Colorado neighbors New Mexico to the north—and has been reaping the benefits of legalizing recreational marijuana sales for a few years now—political leaders in New Mexico have remained hesitant to fully endorse legalization.

Gov. Susana Martinez, a Republican and a former prosecutor, has vowed to veto any such bill that reaches her desk, according to Ruidoso News.

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But Martinez will soon leave her post, and three of the five candidates support legalizing adult-consumption cannabis, including the front-runner, according to local media reports.

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham of Albuquerque is considered the front-runner in the Democratic primary because of the amount of money she’s raised and the endorsements she’s picked up. She said in a statement:

“I am committed to working with the Legislature to move towards legalizing recreational cannabis in a way that improves public safety, boosts state revenues, and allows for New Mexico businesses to grow into this new market.”

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According to Ruidoso News, Lujan Grisham added that the state would need to conduct a thorough analysis of recreational cannabis programs in other states, like Colorado or Washington. It’s worth noting that Lujan Grisham was the former state health secretary, and was in that position when the state’s medical marijuana program rolled out.

Peter DeBenedittis, probably the most outspoken of the gubernatorial candidates on the issue of legalizing marijuana, said in a statement on Monday that, “Simply legalizing cannabis for recreational use in New Mexico would generate $400 million in sales, and 16,000 new jobs in the first year.”

DeBenedittis, a political newcomer form Santa Fe, is likely a longshot for the governor’s chair.

Albuquerque businessman Jeff Apodaca, a Democrat, also supports legalizing adult-use cannabis. He says the industry in Colorado and Oregon have worked, but Apodaca remains wary of taxing cannabis too highly.

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“What we’ve learned so far from Colorado and Oregon and the other states that have legalized it is that there are ways we can educate the public, monitor it and create agricultural, production and distribution jobs,” he told the Ruidoso News on Monday.

The lone Republican left in the race, U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce of Hobbs, opposes legalizing cannabis. He believes that legalizing the drug comes at too high a cost to the state and to communities.

Rep. Joseph Cervantes, a Las Cruces Democrat, also opposes legalizing cannabis, but does point out that he has in the past sponsored legislation that would significantly reduce the penalties for simple cannabis possession.