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Marijuana decriminalization both good and bad

New Mexico became the 18th state to legalize recreational marijuana use. As of April 1, 2022, residents over the age of 21 can legally purchase up to 2 ounces of marijuana at dispensaries throughout the state.

NMSU’s Dean of Students Ann Goodman sent out an email to the entire student body last month reminding students that despite the new law, the use and possession of marijuana is not permitted on campus. The email included references to the NMSU Drug Policy and the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act.

Eric Haugen, the manager at a local cannabis dispensary called Green Goods, poses for a photo inside the store. Haugen says the new regulation can actually help students succeed. (Photo by Hannah Hunter/Kokopelli)

“At New Mexico State, our goal is to provide students with the academic tools, resources, and a conducive environment in order to meet the goal of obtaining their chosen degree,” Goodman stated. 

Despite the fact marijuana is now widely available, NMSU police Lt. Nelson McGuire indicated there has not been an increase in marijuana related issues on campus.

“We have actually seen a decrease in those issues since July of last year when it was decriminalized,” McGuire said. 

McGuire compared on-campus marijuana incident statistics from July 2018 – March 2019 to statistics from July 2021 – March 2022 in order to eliminate inaccuracies that could be caused by COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. The numbers show that between July 2018 and March 2019, there were 72 marijuana related incidents; and between July 2021 and March 2022, there have only been 19 marijuana related incidents on campus.

Kokopelli conducted an informal survey the week of April 18 to determine how widespread marijuana use is among students. According to the survey, 42% of survey participants said that they do use marijuana. Of the 42% of students who said they do use marijuana, most indicated that the new regulation has not prompted a change in their usage patterns. Of the 58% of students who said they do not smoke, 90% said that they are not more likely to use marijuana now that it’s legal.

Research suggests that cannabis use is associated with both positive and negative effects. According to the Cato Institute, “Advocates suggest that legalization reduces crime, raises tax revenue, lowers criminal justice expenditures, improves public health, increases traffic safety, and stimulates the economy. Critics argue that legalization spurs marijuana and other drug or alcohol use, increases crime, diminishes traffic safety, harms public health, and lowers teen educational achievement.”

Evidence regarding the actual effects of legalizing recreational marijuana is inconsistent due to its novelty. However, Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana use back in 2014, offers statistics based on longer term results.

The National Library of Medicine investigated the different impacts of recreational legalization, the most prominent being road safety. The NLM research shows that since recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado, traffic deaths in which drivers tested positive for marijuana increased 109%, while all Colorado traffic deaths increased 31%. 

Driving under the influence of marijuana remains illegal. Some NMSU students commute from El Paso, while others might travel there for a night out. It’s important to remember that marijuana use is not permitted in Texas and traveling with marijuana across state lines is a federal crime.

It’s also important to keep in mind that not all cannabis is created equal. Marsela Hernandez, the manager at OSO Cannabis Company in Las Cruces, explained why it is important only to purchase from dispensaries.

“You never know out on the street what they put into their products, so it’s always best to purchase from a dispensary because you know their product comes directly from manufacturers,” Hernandez said.

In June 2021, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the Cannabis Regulation Act. According to the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department, the CRA creates a comprehensive licensing, taxing and enforcement regulatory structure for adult-use cannabis in the state that will be administered by the Cannabis Control Division, which is part of the New Mexico RLD.

“A dispensary has to have all their paperwork in order. We actually had RLD come in yesterday to do a quick audit on us,” Hernandez said.

Many people use marijuana to help cope with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. Each strain of marijuana can have different effects depending on the individual.

Eric Haugen, manager at another local dispensary called Green Goods, believes that the new regulation can help students succeed. 

“We believe that cannabis is medicine. It’s legitimate! It treats anxiety, depression, PTSD and more. It can also be great for focus and for studying. There’s really so many benefits that are proven. Though there is still a stigma around it, I think legalization is definitely going to take that down and I think students can greatly benefit,” Haugen said. 

Haugen added that Green Goods is here to help customers find what they need.

If students are looking to discuss the new state regulation or personal marijuana usage, the NMSU Aggie Health and Wellness Center is available as a resource.

What do you think? Is decriminalizing marijuana good or bad for New Mexico? 

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IS LEGALIZING POT GOOD OR BAD FOR NEW MEXICO?

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