A Jah Kush bud reaches for the light in the greenhouse at Nature's Herb and Wellness in the northeast Colorado town of Garden City. (Joe Amon, Denver Post file)

New Mexico poll: 3 out of 5 residents want recreational marijuana

SANTA FE, N.M. — Three out of five New Mexico residents support the legalization and taxation of recreational marijuana, according to poll results released Thursday.

The survey by Albuquerque-based Research & Polling Inc. found that 61 percent of residents would back legislation to legalize pot sales among adults 21 and over, while 28 percent were opposed.

“We just said straight up, ‘Do you support or oppose a bill that would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana sales for adult use in New Mexico?'” said pollster Brian Sanderoff, president of Research & Polling.

The telephone survey of 406 residents took place Jan. 8-13 and had a margin of error of 5 percentage points. The poll was commissioned by private and nonprofit groups including licensed marijuana producers and the decriminalization group Drug Policy Alliance.

The results showed stronger support for legalization of marijuana sales among men, Hispanics, adults under 35, Democratic and independent voters and those not registered to vote. Among Republicans, 43 percent voiced support for legalization.

“Even in eastern New Mexico, which we consider typically our most conservative region, 58 percent supported this,” Sanderoff said.

Support for legalization rose to 69 percent when residents were informed that tax revenue generated by marijuana sales would be used to pay for health care and substance-abuse programs.

The poll did not refer to any one bill in particular. Democratic lawmakers have introduced initiatives in both the state House and Senate seeking to regulate and tax recreational marijuana sales, arguing that it would take money out of the hands of drug gangs and put it into state tax coffers for education, health care and law enforcement.

Rep. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, said leaders of the Republican-led state House of Representatives are unlikely to bring his marijuana legalization proposal to a floor vote during the current 30-day legislative session.

Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, is seeking a constitutional amendment to avoid the chance of a veto by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez. Amendments require approval by the majority of legislative seats, followed by a statewide public vote. Ortiz y Pino said he believes legalization is inevitable because of shifting public attitudes.

New Mexico legalized the production and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes in 2007. Of poll respondents, 71 percent support those regulations, while 22 percent are opposed.