Legalization

New Mexico legislators seek policing, cannabis reforms

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SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) – The New Mexico state Senate is wading into ambitious reform proposals designed to rein in the use of deadly force by police, expand cannabis sales, provide free college tuition and criminalize threats against public officials.

More than 150 bills were introduced as the state Senate holds a rare floor session amid the pandemic and a spate of virus infections at the Capitol.

They included a bill from Democratic state Sen. Linda Lopez of Albuquerque, with support of the American Civil Liberties Union, that would establish statewide standards for the use of deadly force by police officers and require training on so-called de-escalation tactics that defuse potential violence.

That bill would also ban certain police holds, weapons and tactics – including “no knock” search warrants, which allow officers to enter a home without announcing their presence, often in drug cases to prevent suspects from getting rid of a stash.

A hallmark provision of the bill states that “a law enforcement officer shall not use deadly physical force upon another person unless it is used as a last resort, after the officer has exhausted de-escalation tactics.”

At least two bills were introduced Monday that align with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s goals of expanding the cannabis market in New Mexico to recreational use.

They include a proposal from Republican Sen. Cliff Pirtle that would funnel taxes on marijuana to local and state law enforcement agencies as well as mental health programs. A new state agency would be established to regulate the expanded cannabis production and set standards for consumer protection and workplace safety.

“There is growing bipartisan agreement that prohibition has not been effective in limiting and controlling the negative effects of cannabis,” Pirtle said in a news release.

Many Democratic legislators want cannabis legalization laws to provide fiscal or economic aid to communities adversely affected by drug criminalization and the decades-long “war on drugs” by law enforcement agencies.

State senators also introduced a bill that expands the reach of so-called opportunity scholarships that provide tuition-free college for in-state students.

Lujan Grisham hopes to expand the current effort behind students pursuing two-year associate degrees and certificates.

Amid a raft of bill introductions, Republican state Senators unsuccessfully attempted to halt a pro-abortion rights initiative that would eliminate the state’s dormant ban on most abortion procedures.

The Senate voted 25-14 to advance the bill to its second committee hearing.