Hein­rich joins John­son in call to le­gal­ize cannabis

The Taos News - - VECINOS - By An­drew Ox­ford aox­ford@sfnewmex­i­can.com A longer, orig­i­nal ver­sion of this story first pub­lished in the Santa Fe New Mex­i­can, a sib­ling pub­li­ca­tion of The Taos News.

What a dif­fer­ence six years can make.

As a newly elected U.S. se­na­tor, Martin Hein­rich was cau­tious in 2012 when asked about le­gal­iz­ing mar­i­juana.

Now, he’s on board.

Up for re-elec­tion in Novem­ber, the Demo­crat tweeted April 20 that “it’s time to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana.”

And this sum­mer, Hein­rich signed on with lit­tle fan­fare as a co-spon­sor of the Mar­i­juana Free­dom and Op­por­tu­nity Act, which would re­move the drug from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s list of Sched­ule I nar­cotics.

Of course, one of Hein­rich’s two chal­lengers, for­mer New Mex­ico Gov. Gary John­son, a Lib­er­tar­ian, has been call­ing for le­gal­iz­ing mar­i­juana since the 1990s, be­fore it was cool.

But the prospect of Congress pass­ing leg­is­la­tion to le­gal­ize the drug isn’t promis­ing, par­tic­u­larly if Repub­li­cans main­tain con­trol of the Se­nate in the elec­tion Nov. 5.

Even so, the U.S. Se­nate race in New Mex­ico of­fers a sign of the times, with two of the three can­di­dates call­ing for le­gal­iz­ing recre­ational mar­i­juana as more states and en­tire coun­tries adopt in­creas­ingly lib­eral poli­cies to­ward the drug.

Hein­rich said ul­ti­mately peo­ple are go­ing to use mar­i­juana and it is bet­ter to have a con­trolled sit­u­a­tion.

The leg­is­la­tion he is back­ing this year along with eight other Democrats and Sen. Bernie San­ders, an in­de­pen­dent from Ver­mont, would de­crim­i­nal­ize mar­i­juana at the fed­eral level by re­mov­ing the drug from the gov­ern­ment’s sched­ule of con­trolled nar­cotics. Mar­i­juana is cur­rently listed as a Sched­ule I nar­cotic along­side heroin and pey­ote.

Re­mov­ing mar­i­juana from the sched­ule of con­trolled nar­cotics would al­low states to le­gal­ize it with­out the loom­ing threat of a fed­eral crack­down.

The bill would also sup­port state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments in ex­pung­ing records of mar­i­juana pos­ses­sion con­vic­tions, mean­ing many crim­i­nal records for rel­a­tively mi­nor non­vi­o­lent crimes could be wiped clean.

John­son has been out­spo­ken on these is­sues for years. He has lam­basted the war on drugs as an ex­pen­sive bust, and he pushed to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana when he was gov­er­nor at a time when such pro­pos­als were rel­a­tively rad­i­cal. John­son is also known to en­joy the drug him­self.

John­son ar­gued that reg­u­lat­ing mar­i­juana more like al­co­hol would rein in the gov­ern­ment’s power and ex­pand per­sonal free­dom.

Repub­li­can Mick Rich’s U.S. Se­nate cam­paign says he rec­og­nizes the role of med­i­cal mar­i­juana but is op­posed to le­gal­iz­ing the drug for recre­ational use. Rich’s cam­paign says re­search shows detri­men­tal ef­fects of recre­ational cannabis use.

And that mes­sage is sure to res­onate with plenty of vot­ers in a vastly ru­ral and in some ways rel­a­tively so­cially con­ser­va­tive state racked with sub­stance-abuse is­sues – from al­co­hol to heroin.

Courtesy photo

GOP can­di­date Mike Rich

Courtesy photo

U.S. Sen. Martin Hein­rich

New Mex­i­can file photo

For­mer NM Gov. Gary John­son

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