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IN SESSION: Marijuana legalization fails on tie vote in Senate committee

Sen. Clemente Sanchez swing vote on proposed constitutional amendment

February 12, 2014, 12:40 am
By Matthew Reichbach
The Senate Rules Committee did not pass a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize possession of marijuana in the state.

The committee tied 5-5 on the Tuesday vote, with Sen. Clemente Sanchez, D-Grants, joining the four Republicans on the panel in voting against moving the proposal forward to the Senate Judiciary Committee with no recommendation—a move that effectively halts its progress for this session.

If the legislation had passed both chambers, the question would have been put to voters.

"The time is right," Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, said during the hearing. "If we pass this this year and the voters approve it in November, that still gives us two additional years to watch what happens in Colorado, to watch what happens in Washington."

Ortiz y Pino said it would give New Mexico time to see what the federal government did with banking and enforcement in states like Colorado and Washington.

State Sen. Sander Rue, R-Albuquerque, said he supported the legalization of marijuana but objected to it being put in place as a constitutional amendment.

"I don't think that smoking a bowl is a constitutional right," Sen. Brian Moores, R-Albuquerque, said before joking that you would think that he would be more amendable to the idea because he served in the Gary Johnson administration. "I don't believe it's a constitutional right. It's not a constitutional right to drink or smoke cigarettes, so I don't think it's a constitutional amendment to smoke pot."

Senate Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, said that it was too soon. He said that even though it would be many months away, it was still better to wait and see what happened in Colorado and Washington.

Sen. Clint Pirtle, R-Roswell, was worried about taking away local support.

"We're going to remove the local control of each individual community in this state," Pirtle said. Even if municipalities and counties were allowed to opt out from production or distribution, he said that they would not be able to outlaw possession in their areas.

"Ten states are currently looking at some version of constitutional or legal approach to make marijuana legal in their states," Ortiz y Pino said.

Following the vote in the Senate Rules Committee, New Mexico is no longer one of those states.

 

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