Senator finally receives data about NM marijuana incarcerations | KOB 4

Senator finally receives data about NM marijuana incarcerations

Ryan Laughlin
August 08, 2019 07:45 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico state leaders are preparing to legalize recreational marijuana in New Mexico. For years, one state senator has been trying to figure out how many New Mexicans are incarcerated for marijuana offenses.

"Finally, after years of asking, this administration, you know, did the right thing and is acting in a transparent fashion and gave me that data," said Sen. Jacob Candelaria. 

Candelaria provided KOB 4 with the numbers: out of 6,950 inmates in New Mexico prisons, 108 have at least one marijuana-related offense. 

"The state tax payer is spending – at the very least – four million dollars a year to keep people incarcerated when the offenses involve cannabis," Candelaria said. 

He said it's an expensive problem – but good data should lead to better legislation.

"For the folks who commit violent crime, for the folks that their addiction leads them to hard someone, or to harm property. You know, it's money well-spent to keep those people in prison," Candelaria said. "But, any dollar that we're spending as a state incarcerating folks in jail or prison for addiction, that's money wasted. And we can spend that money better elsewhere."

He said more information is still needed. Of the 108 convicted for marijuana offenses, only three were "marijuana-centered" offenses – meaning there were no additional crimes or substances listed. 

The vast majority – the other 105 marijuana-related offenders – have other charges that are unknown, and some involved charges for other substances as well. 

Meanwhile, the enroll in New Mexico's medical marijuana program has increased by more than 30% over the past year. 

The state health department said the number of active patients topped 76,000 at the end of July. Participation has grown rapidly since chronic pain and PTSD were added to a list of qualifying conditions.


Ryan Laughlin

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