Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Renewable Resources to Reform the State and it’s Budget Deficit

Cannabis, Hemp, Geothermal Energy, Solar, Wind and a paid State Legislature.
By Jason Barker - medical cannabis patient & advocate with LECUA Patients Coalition of New Mexico

New Mexico’s economy continues to be one of the slowest growing economies in the country.  The state budget shortfalls for 2016 totals near $600 million, and this slow economic growth by the state reveals too much dependence on the federal government and oil revenues. The special session called for the state legislature only resulted in more cuts to the budget and party politics taking away from the purpose of the special session.

Those sources of New Mexico's economic malaise provide funding for Education, Veterans Programs,  Police/ Firefighter Funding, and Health and Human Services programs like Medicaid.  New Mexico is also a state where half of all New Mexicans are on medicaid or medicare.

New Mexico is ranked as the worst-run state in the country with some of the worst social and economic outcomes. Only a handful of states struggle with similar levels of extreme poverty as New Mexico. More than one in every 10 households in the state earns less than $10,000 each year, the second highest proportion after Mississippi. The state also struggles with one of the nation’s highest violent crime rates. Close to 600 violent crimes are reported each year per 100,000 state residents, one of the highest rates nationwide.

Of the three most crucial budget demands upon the state: Public Schools, Medicaid, and Higher Education. Combined they are the true economic and social multiplier with the greatest opportunity of success for the state’s residents and the state’s economy.

The state has the renewable resources to potentially provide 1,000 times more clean energy than the Public Service Company of New Mexico’s current demand, according to the state Energy Conservation and Management Division.  

The state of New Mexico should legalize cannabis and hemp to first and foremost start paying the state legislators.  A hybrid state legislature: Meeting for most of the year and pays the legislators as full-time employees. They can serve the constituents much better because of their extended time in office and ability to devote more time to each issue. New Mexico is the only state with a unsalaried legislature. Some lawmakers such as Democratic Rep. Antonio Maestas say a salary would increase the pool of talent to fill the seats.  Maestas says few people can afford to serve in a citizen Legislature.  Political Action Committee’s growth and influence in New Mexico politics has more than doubled in the last 10 years.  All the larger municipalities and counties in New Mexico provide salaries for city councilors and county commissioners.

We have a paid rather than volunteer fire departments, law enforcement, health-care workers, and teachers, to name a few. The reason is that we rightly expect increased reliability, productivity, and professionalism when we pay for services as opposed to them being provided voluntarily.

Providing funding for a paid legislature and state budget reform can be achieved with cannabis and hemp legalization; in conjunction with the utilization of solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources. Hemp is refined into products such as hemp seed foods, hemp oil medicine, wax, resin/plastics, rope, cloth, pulp, paper, and fuel. This will create jobs, has vast potential for the state universities to benefit, and creates a new business market to keep college graduates in New Mexico.

Colorado cannabis tax revenues now greatly exceeds original estimates of $70 million per year. Canada has had industrial hemp since 1998, and farmers there have reported net profits of $200 to $250 per acre. Most Canadian hemp is exported to the United States. The Colorado Tourism Office reports that 12% are visiting Colorado dispensaries and 5% specifically due to cannabis legalization there. The activities that cannabis tourist reported engaging in included: sightseeing and wine tours, historical sites, hiking, camping, mountain biking, winter snow sports, nightlife, festivals and farmers' markets, according to the survey.  All great activities we have in New Mexico with a Balloon Fiesta to boot.
New Mexico can be a leader and pioneer in cannabis, hemp,  and the sciences of medical cannabis. We need to define a policy model for cannabis legalization by regulating and taxing cannabis like herbal and nutritional supplements. And by combining the high standards of alcohol regulation specific to the craft brewery regulations we have in New Mexico. As all use of cannabis has true therapeutic and medical benefits and the state budget can benefit from it under proper regulation. Legalization Is About Freedom And Good Health, Not Greed.