Santa Fe City Council approves resolution urging cannabis legalization

Measure will be presented to New Mexico Legislature by city reps in January

Medicine on display at Kure Cannabis. | Photo by Aaron Cantú

With exception of one, Santa Fe city councilors present at tonight's governing body meeting approved a resolution urging the state Legislature to legalize cannabis for recreational use.

It means that the city's team of legislative liaisons will include the measure when they interface with their counterparts in the House and Senate early next year.

The resolution had been scheduled on the City Council's consent calendar and was eligible for a vote without discussion along with the rest of a slate of items, but Councilor Chris Rivera pulled it from the list so he could vote no.

Rivera said he had a negative view of cannabis "from personal experience on the ambulance scene." He is a former paramedic and chief of the city's Fire Department.

Rivera also said that councilors received information from the Public Safety Committee showing that cannabis is "not as benign as some people would think."

In response, Mayor Alan Webber, one of four co-sponsors of the resolution, quoted part of an article which traced cannabis' prohibition to a racist push to limit immigration from Mexico in the early part of the 20th century.

“I take seriously the admission this is not something we just do frivolously or without concern, but I do think we have seen public safety dollars spent dealing with marijuana laws that could be better spent in other ways,” Webber said.

The resolution was introduced Oct. 16 and sponsored by Webber and councilors Peter Ives, JoAnne Vigil Coppler and Michael Harris.

It reads like a summary of good news about cannabis, including a reference to one study by the National Institute of Drug Abuse showing a correlation between declining opioid abuse and overdose and medical cannabis legalization.

"Whereas, while the FDA has not recognized or approved marijuana as medicine, the scientific study of cannabinoids some of the chemicals found in marijuana [sic], has led to two FDA-approved medications that contain cannabinoid chemicals in pill form," one part of the resolution reads.

The drug Epidiolex, whose primary ingredient is CBD, was approved by the FDA in June.

The resolution also cites the city's decision in 2014 to designate possession of up to an ounce of cannabis as "the lowest law enforcement priority" for local cops, though SFR confirmed earlier this year that Santa Fe police were still arresting and charging people for cannabis possession based on state law.

Between the time the resolution was first drafted and the vote tonight, Michigan became the 10th state to legalize adult use. Tax revenue recouped from sale of cannabis in other states is also cited in the resolution.

“I certainly grew up as we started the War on Drugs,” Ives tells SFR, concluding the war has been a failure. “I consider to some degree what Colorado and Washington have done, where they’ve said, ‘Let’s regulate this and control it through proper governmental oversight.’ To me, that makes sense.”

Harris and Vigil Coppler did not respond to messages from SFR.

In November, state Rep. Javier Martínez (D-Albuquerque) told SFR that he plans re-introduce a bill to tax and regulate cannabis use for adults 21 and over before the start of the 2019 legislative session.

Previous hurdles to legalization, including an anti-cannabis governor and state senators resistant to the idea, have been cleared away by a wave of Democratic wins in 2016 and this past November.

"I don't want recreational marijuana, but I understand the political reality that it is here," state Sen. Mark Moores (R-Albuquerque) told SFR last month.

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