New Mexico State Police in Taos say they are not concerned that Colorado’s recent decision to legalize marijuana will have an adverse effect on the drug’s use in Northern New Mexico.

Colorado voters passed Amendment 64 last month, which makes it legal for adults 21 and up to purchase and use up to one ounce of marijuana for “recreational or non-medical use.”

Marijuana dealers, however, must be licensed to sell the drug and it cannot be smoked in public.

But Sgt. Edwardo Martínez of New Mexico State Police said Monday (Dec. 3) that the drug already has such a foothold in this part of New Mexico he doesn’t foresee Colorado’s action affecting pot use in Northern New Mexico.

“It’s already so abundant here. There are so many grows in this area,” Martínez said. “We used to get truckloads of plants and we still do, but a lot of marijuana is grown on National Forest or BLM land.”

That means, Martínez said, that unless someone growing marijuana is caught at the scene or linked with hard evidence, authorities cannot charge anyone and are limited to pulling the plants.

The problem is compounded by the fact that the state’s marijuana eradication program was heavily curtailed in 2008. The project was a partnership between authorities like state police and the Region III Narcotics Task Force, but manpower has dwindled.

“We need at least 20 officers and we’re now down to about seven here,” Martínez said.

With so few resources, Martínez said the task force now dedicates about two days a year to eradication, where officers go to coordinates given to them from spotters in helicopters to pull marijuana plants, especially on public lands.

“Last year, in one day just between Pilar and Rinconada, we got six grow sites,” Martínez said. “That’s just from flying over for 30 minutes. [Legalization] will give people ideas, but it shouldn’t have too much of an effect.”

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