By Christina Calloway
Roosevelt County resident Arkie Kiehne is taking a stand against the legalization of marijuana before it reaches a New Mexico ballot.
Kiehne hopes his petition against the legal sale of marijuana in Roosevelt County, which he claims garnered 830 signatures, sends a message that this area will not tolerate what he sees as a dangerous drug.
He asked Roosevelt County commissioners at their Tuesday meeting to stand with him and show their support as a commission by accepting the petition.
“I want to guarantee you it’s going to happen in New Mexico,” Kiehne told commissioners Tuesday. “Santa Fe is going to do it just like it happened with same-sex marriage. We know that (marijuana) is addictive, we know what it leads to.”
Kiehne feels state officials don’t recognize eastern New Mexico as part of the state nor do they consider the opinions and concerns of the citizens who live here.
Kiehne, who works with the World Series of Team Roping, said through his travels he’s talked with roping producers in Colorado, where marijuana is legal, and says he’s been told of the downside of the drug’s legalization.
“They were expressing their disappointment,” Kiehne said. “They told me, ‘If you can do anything to stop it, you need to stop it.’”
Kiehne is concerned the edible forms of marijuana in candies and baked goods targets younger children.
“Guess who’s gonna get it? Your kids and mine,” Kiehne said.
He added that legalizing the drug gives the message to youth that marijuana is OK.
“I’m just a resident of the county that’s concerned about it. Our Bible study group all got together and started those petitions,” Kiehne said.
Other arguments he made for his case against legalizing the drug include losing industry in this area since eastern New Mexico borders Texas, where marijuana is also not legal, and a need to increase law enforcement.
He added young families will not choose to raise their children in the county.
“Only people making money is the vendor (of marijuana) and the morticians,” Kiehne said.
At the meeting he asked Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Malin Parker to speak to the issue.
Parker said his main concern is the impact on Mexican drug cartels because legalizing it would take profit away from them, which he says could lead to them trafficking more dangerous drugs.
“That’s what scares me the most,” Parker said.
Commission Chairman Kendell Buzard requested Parker retrieve hard figures on crime in Colorado to get more of a perspective on the issue.
Although the commission accepted the petition, Buzard cautioned that others for the legalization of marijuana could also bring forth a petition and, though he agreed with the concerns of Kiehne, he also told him he believed in democracy.
Local business owner Elliott Fite said he comes from the premise that while he doesn’t advocate that it be a free for all, he feels society would be better off if it treated marijuana as a regulated market similar to alcohol where it’s not monopolized by street crime and drug cartels.
“I do feel that we live in a time where we can logically look at historical facts and economic data to realize that if you support the prohibition of this, you’re bordering on the line of supporting cartels and organized crime,” said Fite, who considers himself a libertarian. “…Prohibition made the Mafia extremely powerful and that is essentially what we’re doing here.”
He added if people can look past marijuana as being taboo, looking to states, such as Colorado and Washington, where the drug is legal will help officials get a better understanding on the topic in terms of tax revenue and crime.