The state Legislature got through the session without a bill legalizing recreational marijuana, with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham calling for a special session to address the question.
Ten students from various schools including East Mountain High, Estancia Valley Classical Academy, and Moriarty High were interviewed on their insights of the matter, with the majority interviewed holding strong opinions on the topic of marijuana legalization.
“Many states across the country have already legalized it, proving that it’s possible to effectively legalize marijuana,” said Moriarty High junior Angelica.
Bordering states Arizona and Colorado have legalized recreational marijuana with restrictions, two of 14 states to do so.
To some students, this shows the effectiveness of legalization. Regulations and rules set in both states offer a foundation for possible legalization here, and many students see no reason why New Mexico can’t do the same.
Other students looked at marijuana with respect to mental and physical health. “I see it as a way for people to relax or help themselves feel better,” Austin said, when asked about his opinion on marijuana.
While medical marijuana is already legal in New Mexico, some students believe that the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes means larger accessibility. Some students interviewed use marijuana for pain or mental illness and/or have family members who use it for the same purposes, increased accessibility is seen as a potential relief for both themselves and loved ones.
Not all students see the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana positively. Some see legalization as a way to help slow down the amount of younger users.
“If you look back to the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s, you can see that the distribution and consumption of alcohol was much higher than it was when it was legal,” an anonymous student explained. “I believe that if marijuana was given the same restrictions alcohol has today, selling rates would go down.”
These interviewed students believe that much of the selling of recreational marijuana illegally is connected to the excitement of rebelling.
With marijuana legalized, the eagerness would perhaps fade along with many of the purchases that came along with it. According to these students, legalizing the sales and use would decrease active use in the community.
“People are still finding methods to get it,” an anonymous student said. “But in far more dangerous ways than places like Colorado where legal adults can go to dispensaries.”
These students felt that the excitement of rebelling is yet another reason to worry: shady deals to hide the purchase of marijuana create a risk of either a poor deal or bad quality. With legalization, they believe the ability to purchase from a dispensary would allow safer purchase and use for active users.
While the majority of the students interviewed for this story were in favor of the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana, two were opposed.
“Younger kids can get into it sooner and then possibly find more drugs,” Estancia Valley Classical Academy senior Caelan said on the subject. “They can basically throw their life away.”
These students are concerned with the potential for a sudden large increase in access to marijuana. Similar to cigarettes and other forms of nicotine, they say legalization may offer an opportunity for adults to purchase marijuana for minors to get around regulations.
Considered by many as a “gateway drug,” the chance of a younger relative getting their hands on marijuana is a frightening thought for some. For the students against the legalization, the risk of access by minors outweighs positive uses.
Two of the interviewed students were neutral at the possibility of marijuana being legalized in New Mexico. To these students, marijuana will remain a part of the communities of New Mexico either way. With marijuana easily available to students, they believe legalization won’t change much of how marijuana is used today.
cAs the state watches for the decisions made on the matter of legalization, students will keep a keen eye on the bill’s advancements as well.