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New Mexico moves closer to legalizing recreational use of cannabis

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With states like Oregon, Washington and Colorado legalizing the use of recreational cannabis, New Mexico may not be too far from doing the same.

New Mexico Rep. Bill McCamley introduced the Cannabis Revenue and Freedom Act in the last legislative session.

The bill would allow residents to use marijuana like alcohol -- those over 21 years old could have, use and grow cannabis without any penalties.

“The estimates are the direct tax revenue for the legalization of social cannabis will probably be in the $60 million to $70 millionrange,” McCamley said.

McCamley also said that number does not include tax revenue that could be brought in from the income, property and sales taxes.

Here’s how the tax revenue would be distributed under McCamley's bill: 40 percent would go toward K12 education, 15 percent to state police, 15 percent to city police and sheriff organizations distributed through grants, 20 percent to health service and 10 percent to prevention services and youth education.

A cannabis convention expo in Las Cruces on Sunday aimed to educate and raise awareness about cannabis and cannabis products.

“(Cannabis) products have been used for a number of different reasons from epilepsy to chronic pain, inflammation, anxiety, depression, and to help battle some of the side effects of PTSD," said registered nurse Gina Lucero.

Chad Lozano belongs to an organization that educates the public on the medical benefits of cannabis for veterans suffering from mental illness.

“My sister was a vet too ... and she lost her battle to the prescription pills. ... That’s one thing I didn’t want to do was go to that route so I want to make sure veterans get off pills, get off alcohol and try something more natural,” Lozano said.

Summer Sutphin, an NMSU student who is getting her degree in education, said she fears the growing popularity of cannabis mayattract younger kids to start using it.

The bill for the legalization of recreational cannabis will be on the table for the next legislative session, which begins in January, 2017.

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