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New Mexicans don't think the state's residents should be able to legally
smoke marijuana for fun, but an overwhelming majority of them believe
people suffering from serious health problems should be allowed to smoke it.

According to the recent statewide New Mexican/KOB TV poll, 72 percent said
they would favor "legalizing marijuana use by those who have serious
medical conditions, to alleviate pain and other symptoms."

Only 20 percent oppose the idea, while 8 percent are undecided.

"This is not unusual," said Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of
Washington, D.C., which conducted the poll.

"Any time there has been a ballot initiative for medical marijuana, it has
passed." New Mexico does not have ballot initiatives.

According to the poll, support for medical marijuana in New Mexico cuts
across party, ethnic and gender lines.

However, the numbers also were lopsided when participants were asked
whether they supported legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Statewide, only 29 percent support that idea while 61 percent oppose it.

Coker said it's typical nationwide for people to be against legalizing
marijuana except for medical purposes.

"Take Nevada," Coker said. "They legalized medical marijuana. Now an
initiative to legalize small amounts of marijuana is on the ballot. But our
polls show it's going to lose."

Nevada residents will vote in November on a constitutional amendment to
legalize possession of up to three ounces of marijuana.

A Las Vegas Review-Journal poll of 625 people in early September found 45
percent supported the marijuana measure, while 55 percent opposed it.

The New Mexican/KOB poll was conducted Sept. 24 to Sept. 26 and involved
421 registered and likely voters in New Mexico.

There was a 5 percent margin of error.

In the current gubernatorial campaign, both major-party candidates -
Democrat Bill Richardson and Republican John Sanchez - oppose legalization
or decriminalizing laws against marijuana possession.

Green Party candidate David Bacon is in favor of eliminating criminal
penalties for possessing small amounts.

However, in the area of medical marijuana, Richardson said in a recent
interview he would seriously consider signing legislation to establish
medical marijuana in the state. Bacon also is in favor of legalizing
marijuana for certain medical patients.

Sanchez is opposed to legalizing medical marijuana and has voted against at
least one such bill in the Legislature. However, his running mate, state
Sen. Rod Adair of Roswell, has been vocal in his support of
medical-marijuana bills that were considered in the Senate last year.

Democrats are more likely to support legalizing medical marijuana than
Republicans. They favor the idea by a margin of 81 percent to 13 percent,
with the remainder undecided.

However, Republicans still support the idea by a wide margin, 57 percent in
favor and 31 percent opposed.

Those not aligned with either major party support legalizing medical
marijuana 76 percent to 19 percent.

A slight majority of Democrats, 51 percent, oppose legalization of small
amounts of marijuana. But Republicans oppose such legalization, 74 percent
to 18 percent.

Antoinette Tellez-Humble, director of the New Mexico Drug Policy Project,
said she believes there is more support for decriminalizing small amounts
of marijuana than legalizing it.

She noted the bills backed by her organization and Gov. Gary Johnson in the
last two legislative sessions would not have legalized small amounts of

Instead, they would have changed possession to a civil rather than a
criminal offense.

Pubdate: Sat, 5 Oct 2002
Source: Santa Fe New Mexican (NM)
Copyright: 2002 The Santa Fe New Mexican
Contact: letters@sfnewmexican.com
Website: santafenewmexican.com | News, opinion and sports from Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico
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