New Mexico's Reefer Madness

We've joined the club. Thanks to liberal New Mexico legislators, effective April 2022 it will be legal in this state to possess up to two ounces of cannabis for personal use. That means pot shops in city neighborhoods selling smokeables and edibles. Its means a dramatic increase in emergency room visits for marijuana overdoses. The package includes noxious odors emanating from marijuana farms, often described as a "dead skunk" stench, and that isn't necessarily in rural areas. Growing cannabis in lieu of other crops will be highly profitable, and in Las Cruces we have plenty of fields adjacent to residential areas.


The "rationale" behind this was the usual liberal gibberish, a supposed effort to decrease the "targeting" of African-Americans for drug-related offenses. Too bad nobody studied data from other states where possessing small amounts was legalized, which indicates that African-Americans are still being arrested at, or nearly at, twice the rate of whites for drug offenses. Overall, arrests for possessing small amounts of marijuana in states where pot was decriminalized dropped dramatically for all races (duh). But let's reveal the real reason behind the passing of the legislation. As usual, it is about the money.


There are huge profits to be had from the legalization of marijuana and New Mexico legislators have their eyes on the "pot" of gold at the end of the rainbow. We've lost our oil and natural gas revenue in this state thanks to Biden, who wants everyone driving an electric car even though they are expensive, we are in a pandemic, jobs are scarce, and millions of families are trying to get by without much other than a measly stipend from the government every few months.


No doubt marijuana profits can be used for good. The question is, at what expense? Legalize any drug and it becomes more readily available to children. Had this been put to a statewide vote it never would have passed because parents have more sense than legislators, but politicians know what is best for us, so rest easy. In conversations I've had with career cops and federal agents we all know that marijuana is labeled a gateway drug for a reason. That doesn't mean that everyone who ever smoked it moved on to harder drugs, or even if they tried other drugs after pot continued to use them to the point of addiction.


What it means is this: every criminal I've ever arrested for a drug-related offense, or a violent crime committed while high on drugs, had one thing common: they all started with marijuana. That is why it is referred to as a gateway drug and is still a Schedule I violation under federal law. Schedule I means that the drug has no currently accepted medical use and carries a high potential for abuse. And that is where the argument starts.


There's plenty of testimony out there from users that pot smoking or consuming edibles provides relief from pain, both physical and psychological (think PTSD). The issue becomes percentages of purity and inconsistencies therein, which is why it is not FDA approved and cannot be prescribed by a physician.


The argument can, and has, gone on for years and will continue. This article is not about who is right or wrong, or even whether pot should be legal. The real point is how it affects the economy. What becomes of the money, the millions per month that people running dispensaries will profit? Since the drug is illegal under federal law, the proceeds from the sale of it cannot be deposited into an FDIC bank. Without banks there are no wire transfers to Santa Fe to pay taxes, everything has to be trucked by armored car and paid in cash. Armed guards will be needed to protect dispensaries, and those facilities must be secure and as robbery proof as possible. Who wants that in their neighborhood?


With millions of dollars sitting in vaults, how do marijuana dispensers spend it?


Real estate. As was seen in Colorado, especially Denver, with no banks in which to put their considerable profits, drug dispensers began buying up properties with cash. If you're a New Mexico homeowner, this is good news. Your property values are going to skyrocket. But it is bad news for those wanting to purchase a home because the American dream will soon become extremely expensive. If I were looking to buy a home in New Mexico, I would certainly do it before April 2022. If you think the price tag of a house in Las Cruces, Santa Fe, or Albuquerque is high today, give it eighteen months.


There are a few, very few, credit unions and state banks who are not federally insured where the money could be deposited, but financial laws still require those institutions to fill out suspicious activity reports when receiving large cash deposits. To date, none of them, at least in Colorado, have been charged criminally by the feds. Will they be in the future? Probably not, but I suppose that depends on who is in the White House.


A solution to this issue would be a relaxation of federal law pertaining to marijuana. With Biden in office that is a real possibility. He has exhibited a progressive left agenda and it wouldn't surprise me if he played the race card to justify reducing or eliminating criminal penalties for small amounts of pot.


But the real motivation will be the billions of dollars in profits to be had regardless of how legalized pot affects society overall.

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J.R. LONSWAY

AUTHOR | RETIRED DEPUTY CHIEF OF POLICE

J.R. Lonsway served 22 years with the Las Cruces, New Mexico, police department and retired as a Deputy Chief of Police. After retirement he served with the U.S. Department of State as a police advisor in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Liberia, Haiti, Lebanon, and South Sudan. He is a former U.S. Marine.

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