Burning questions linger about legalizing marijuana in ABQ

In less than a week, Albuquerque voters will cast ballots for the next mayor and in some districts, city councilors. Most candidates have straightforward ideas on how to improve the city, but one candidate is keeping true to his campaign modus operandi by proposing an idea that other candidates won’t even consider. Gus Pedrotty, the […]

Burning questions linger about legalizing marijuana in ABQ

In less than a week, Albuquerque voters will cast ballots for the next mayor and in some districts, city councilors.

Most candidates have straightforward ideas on how to improve the city, but one candidate is keeping true to his campaign modus operandi by proposing an idea that other candidates won’t even consider. Gus Pedrotty, the youngest candidate for mayor this year, recently added city-level marijuana legalization to his platform. While the idea of legalization on a local level may be enticing for some voters, other candidates and at least one cannabis producer said the idea is too complicated to work.

Earlier this month, Pedrotty released a campaign video promoting his ideas for improving the city’s clean energy industry and how to help pay for it.

“It’s simple, we’re going to go green, to go green,” Pedrotty said.

According to Pedrotty, his plan to legalize cannabis on a city level would be a scaled-down version of what some states, including neighboring Colorado, have already done. He admits in his video that the attempt would be challenged in court, but that the city could move forward with his plan even during that time.

New Mexico state auditor and fellow mayoral candidate Tim Keller said he appreciates Pedrotty’s excitement, but believes that Pedrotty’s plan will invite lawsuits against the city. Keller said police unions would likely sue for contradictory laws and lawmakers would challenge a city-wide legalization effort.

Keller has publicly spoken in favor of legalizing cannabis, both as a state senator and as a mayoral candidate, but told NM Political Report those attempts should be left at the state level.

“I think that if we research it and come up with a good plan and engage voters and the Legislature, that’s actually going to be faster,” Keller said.

Keller has also publicly stated that if elected mayor, he would favor lowering penalties for cannabis possession and use.

Pedrotty, though, disagrees with Keller and said city legalization would help give Albuquerque a foothold economically.

“I see this as a clear point of action the city can take that will be more beneficial than waiting,” Pedrotty told NM Political Report.

Pedrotty has at least one major supporter of his legalization idea—one of the state’s most well-known medical cannabis producers.

Duke Rodriguez, CEO of Ultra Health LLC, a New Mexico medical cannabis company, said if Albuquerque legalized cannabis, “The impact [on the state] would be tremendous,” possibly creating a tourism boom in the state’s largest city.

Another person familiar with medical cannabis disagrees with Rodriguez and Pedrotty on the reality of a thriving cannabis industry under city-wide legalization, citing legal battles.

Willie Ford, founder and managing director, of R Greenleaf and Associates, a New Mexico medical cannabis consulting company, said recreational producers wouldn’t pop up during the first year of legalization.

“Flipping a switch is not possible,” Ford said.

Story continues below
 




Medical cannabis producers, Ford said, might think twice about jumping into a recreational cannabis program before the legalities are all worked out.

“I don’t think that my licensed clients would want to risk losing their [medical cannabis] license,” Ford said.

Ford added his company might “explore” getting into recreational cannabis, but only if there were a “legal avenue” to do so.

Pedrotty said while he wants the city to take action sooner rather than later, he realizes that the mayor has to work with the city council to pass key legislation. Pedrotty, a  musician, likened that work to being in an orchestra.

“I know all too well the sound of a conductor’s wand,” Pedrotty said. “Which is nothing.”

Albuquerque City Councilor and mayoral candidate Dan Lewis, who once ran for Congress on a politically conservative Tea Party platform, agreed that any legalization efforts should come from the legislature and the governor.

“I believe marijuana will be legalized in the state eventually,” Lewis wrote in an email. “I’m not the guy to lead that charge.”

Mayoral candidate Brian Colón told NM Political Report the issue of marijuana legalization is up to the state and thinks New Mexico’s next governor will address legalization. Still, Colón said he doesn’t agree with Pedrotty’s plan.

“I am not in favor of a city by city approach,” Colón wrote in an email. “However, I am confident that this is an issue that will be addressed at the state level.”

In most of the polls so far, Pedrotty looks like a longshot to win the mayor’s race. Still, almost all of the other candidates have spoken highly of him and said he will go far. In one mayoral forum, Colón said he was impressed with Pedrotty’s answers and expected him to “pick up some votes” as well as land a job afterwards.

Pedrotty is far from surprised by the supportive comments from other candidates. He previously told NM Political Report his age, along with some of his ideas for changing Albuquerque, have earned him plenty of metaphorical pats on the back and encouragement for the future.

Keller for example, politely dismissed the idea of Albuquerque successfully legalizing recreational cannabis.

“We have to be reasonable and pragmatic and that’s how we get things done,” Keller said. “It’s fun to talk about, but it’s going to take a whole lot more than a mayor in a lawsuit.”

Pedrotty said his plan is pragmatic and will include conversations with the council and stakeholders, but that it’s important for Albuquerque to take more initiative to capitalize on inevitable legalization as soon as possible.

“If not now, then when?” Pedrotty asked. “And if not me, then who?”

Update: Added comment from Brian Colón. 

We're ad free

That means that we rely on support from readers like you. Help us keep reporting on the most important New Mexico Stories by donating today.

Related

Effort to challenge six laws enacted last year comes to an end

Effort to challenge six laws enacted last year comes to an end

Earlier this month, the New Mexico Supreme Court denied and dismissed the effort to challenge six laws enacted in 2023. The New Mexico Supreme…
Governor to call special session for public safety legislation this summer

Governor to call special session for public safety legislation this summer

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that she will call the Legislature into a special session this summer to address public safety legislation that did…
Emily’s List endorses seven candidates for Legislature

Emily’s List endorses seven candidates for Legislature

Emily’s List, a nonprofit that supports women candidates and reproductive rights, endorsed seven incumbents facing general election opponents in New Mexico legislative elections. All…
Two PFAS chemicals designated hazardous substances under Superfund law

Two PFAS chemicals designated hazardous substances under Superfund law

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a final rule Friday to designate two types of PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances. Those two chemicals are perfluorooctanoic…
BLM finalizes controversial public lands rule

BLM finalizes controversial public lands rule

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management finalized its controversial public lands rule on Thursday. This rule is controversial because it allows for conservation leasing…
Haaland signs order protecting sacred lands near Placitas

Haaland signs order protecting sacred lands near Placitas

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland signed an order on Thursday to withdraw more than 4,200 acres of land in Sandoval County near Placitas from mineral…
Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

Amid new graduation requirements, what do high schoolers want to learn?

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican The main things that bring Brayan Chavez to school every day: Seeing, talking to and engaging with…
Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

Special ed teachers hope lawmakers OK pay raises, admin changes

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican Brittany Behenna Griffith has a laundry list of adjectives to describe the ideal special education teacher:…
Lawmakers must find consensus on competing education spending plans

Lawmakers must find consensus on competing education spending plans

By Margaret O’Hara, The Santa Fe New Mexican A challenging task awaits New Mexico lawmakers in the next 30 days: Reconciling three very different…
Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Health workers fear it’s profits before protection as CDC revisits airborne transmission

Amy Maxmen, KFF Health News Four years after hospitals in New York City overflowed with covid-19 patients, emergency physician Sonya Stokes remains shaken by…
Lujan Grisham, Biden admin announce $10 million in federal funds for tribes, pueblos

Lujan Grisham, Biden admin announce $10 million in federal funds for tribes, pueblos

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced Friday $10 million in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act was awarded to six tribal nations and…
Proposal to curb executive powers moves to House Judiciary

Proposal to curb executive powers moves to House Judiciary

The House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee discussed a potential constitutional amendment that seeks to limit the governor’s executive powers. The committee approved…
Abortion fund provider rebrands and holds open house

Abortion fund provider rebrands and holds open house

An abortion fund provider unveiled a rebrand and offered an open house in Las Cruces to celebrate the organization’s new name, mission and values. …
Stansbury introduces judicial ethics bill on U.S. Supreme Court steps

Stansbury introduces judicial ethics bill on U.S. Supreme Court steps

U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury announced a bill on Thursday that would, if enacted, establish judicial ethics to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Judicial Ethics…
Politics and abortion, how much will it matter?

Politics and abortion, how much will it matter?

At the national level, abortion is still a high-stakes issue with both major presidential candidates talking about it in their campaigns, but it may…
Abortion fund provider rebrands and holds open house

Abortion fund provider rebrands and holds open house

An abortion fund provider unveiled a rebrand and offered an open house in Las Cruces to celebrate the organization’s new name, mission and values. …
Politics and abortion, how much will it matter?

Politics and abortion, how much will it matter?

At the national level, abortion is still a high-stakes issue with both major presidential candidates talking about it in their campaigns, but it may…
How the AZ Supreme Court decision on abortion impacts New Mexico

How the AZ Supreme Court decision on abortion impacts New Mexico

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that an 1864 abortion ban is enforceable, throwing another state bordering New Mexico into the situation of…
Effort to challenge six laws enacted last year comes to an end

Effort to challenge six laws enacted last year comes to an end

Earlier this month, the New Mexico Supreme Court denied and dismissed the effort to challenge six laws enacted in 2023. The New Mexico Supreme…
Vasquez calls out Republicans for ‘inaction’ on border policy

Vasquez calls out Republicans for ‘inaction’ on border policy

U.S. Rep. Gabriel “Gabe” Vasquez, a Democrat who represents the state’s 2nd Congressional District along the U.S.-Mexico border, cosponsored a resolution on Monday calling…
Politics and abortion, how much will it matter?

Politics and abortion, how much will it matter?

At the national level, abortion is still a high-stakes issue with both major presidential candidates talking about it in their campaigns, but it may…
Two PFAS chemicals designated hazardous substances under Superfund law

Two PFAS chemicals designated hazardous substances under Superfund law

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a final rule Friday to designate two types of PFAS chemicals as hazardous substances. Those two chemicals are perfluorooctanoic…
New Mexico Voices for Children has new leadership

New Mexico Voices for Children has new leadership

New Mexico Voices for Children, an organization that focuses on tax policy and how it impacts children in poverty, has new leadership. Gabrielle Uballez…
Abortion fund provider rebrands and holds open house

Abortion fund provider rebrands and holds open house

An abortion fund provider unveiled a rebrand and offered an open house in Las Cruces to celebrate the organization’s new name, mission and values. …

GET INVOLVED

© 2023 New Mexico Political Report