Monday, January 6, 2014

Is "Decriminalization" the "Domestic Partnerships" of Marijuana

Rep. Kane
I spoke with state Rep. Emily Kane, D-Albuquerque this weekend after I'd filed my story about Colorado's embarking on legal retail sale of marijuana for recreational adult users.

Kane last year sponsored a bill, which passed the House, that would have reduced penalties for possession of up to 4 ounces of marijuana to a civil penalty with increasing fines, and would have eliminated the potential for jail time for anyone caught with up to 8 ounces of pot. I asked her if she intended to introduce that bill in the upcoming session.

No, she said. House Democrats are discussing whether to get behind Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino's proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana, like Colorado did. If that passes state voters would decide the issue in November.

Personally, I'm doubtful that the Legislature will pass Ortiz y Pino's legislation this year. (But don't put too much stock in my power of prediction. I didn't think Kane's bill would pass the House last year.)

But I do think marijuana eventually will be legal here, especially if Colorado's experiment goes well and the dire predictions of the Reefer Madness crowd don't come to pass in the next few years.

Something tells me that because of Colorado, the efforts of drug-law reformers, in this state and elsewhere, will be focusing on legalization, not decriminalization -- as as gay-rights activists here at some set aside their effort to establish a "domestic partnership" law here and focus on actual marriage equality. Domestic partnerships" was an attempt at compromise that became less and less relevant as events unfolded.

With the new marijuana laws in Colorado and Washington state, the "decriminalization" compromise is starting to look the same way.