New Mexico Sen. Proposes Legislation to Lower Penalties for Marijuana Possession

A bill introduced to the State Senate by New Mexico Senator Joseph Cervantes would reduce criminal penalties for low-level marijuana possession in that state, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) reports.

Cervantes’ proposal would alter the “penalty structure” for marijuana possession — under the new law, possession of up to four ounces of cannabis would be punishable only with a civil penalty of increasing fines, and the possibility of serving actual jail time would also be removed for any possession charges under eight ounces.

Current New Mexico law dictates that marijuana possession is a misdemeanor crime, with possession of one to eight ounces punishable by up to one year in jail.

New Mexico State Director of the DPA Emily Kaltenbach said in a statement:

“I am troubled by the millions of taxpayer dollars that are spent every year on processing thousands of low level marijuana misdemeanor offenders — dollars that might be better spent by hard-pressed law enforcement agencies on more pressing public safety needs. If ever there was a bill that advanced the smart on crime agenda, this it it.”

Officials in Santa Fe appear to agree with Kaltenbach’s observations, for the City Council voted to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in 2014 and a November poll indicated 74% of the city favored state-wide decriminalization. A separate poll established in 2013 that 57% of New Mexicans favored decriminalizing cannabis. Historically, New Mexico was the first state to officially recognize the potential medical value of cannabis with the 1978 Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Act. It was not until 2007, however, that the state’s current medical marijuana program was fully established.

“Having to expend scarce police resources pursuing and arresting non-violent adults for possessing small amounts of marijuana threatens our public’s safety,” said Neill Franklin, Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

The DPA reports: “As of today, over 120 million people, or 1/3 of the U.S. population, live in jurisdictions where marijuana has been essentially decriminalized — meaning there is no jail tme associated with possession.”


Photo Credit: NCinDC

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