Fed Judge: Pot ballot question is state issue

Marijuana, pot

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – A fight over whether voters in two counties can weigh in on decriminalizing pot in November will be settled Friday by the New Mexico Supreme Court after a last-second court decision cleared a federal hurdle.

Both Santa Fe and Bernalillo County Commissioners want to poll voters on reducing pot penalties in an advisory question that wouldn’t have changed law. But New Mexico Secretary of State Dianna Duran doesn’t think state law allows them to ask questions that don’t have a legal impact and refused to put the issue on the November ballot.

The New Mexico Supreme Court agreed to take the case but Duran’s attorneys wanted the feds to decide arguing that the counties raised federal voting rights issues. Attorneys for the counties called the move an attempt to “run out the clock” on the case and said state law is what’s in dispute.

Late Thursday, federal magistrate judge Karen Molzen sided with the counties, remanding the issue back to the New Mexico Supreme Court to decide, agreeing that this is a state issue.

The New Mexico Supreme Court has set a hearing for 1:30 p.m. Friday where the court is expected to make a decision about if the questions are legally allowed on the ballot and whether Duran properly exercised her authority. Although that hearing was originally only to handle Santa Fe’s complaint, it appears likely that the state Supreme Court will hear both cases at once just as the federal court did Thursday.

Secretary of State Dianna Duran issued the following statement about the decision:

“I am disappointed the federal court did not see this as the federal issue it is-to protect our servicemen and women. I realize the New Mexico Supreme Court is under tremendous partisan
pressure, and it is my prayer they will follow the law and not yield to that pressure, because it is not just for today, it is for all time. Ignoring our law—and ignoring rulings from all over the country—will change the New Mexico ballot forever, and will result in public opinion polls taking the place of real issues for the voters to decide.”

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