New Mexico Munis Look to Decriminalize Minor Possession
September 30th, 2015
The majority of Bernadillo County residents supported the decriminalization of cannabis in 2014, but the city of Albuquerque continues to face an uphill battle in implementing voters’ desires into law, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
The Abaquerque City Council narrowly voted 5-4, along party lines, in favor of making the possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil offense rather than a criminal violation. In addition, the council adopted a resolution that declared marijuana a low enforcement priority for the city’s police department. Democrats came out in favor of the motions, while Republicans remain opposed to their passage.
Despite the favorable motions and voter wishes, Mayor Richard Berry plans to veto the legislation, citing conflicts with state and federal law. The city council won’t have enough votes to override the veto unless an opponent switches party lines. Those promoting the bill hope that opponents will change their position, if not on the merits, then because the county’s constituents are clearly in favor of such a move.
In a non-binding question on the general election ballot last year, about 60% of Bernalillo County residents expressed support for decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.
The other problem is that police can still cite drug users under state law rather than city law, which means that the move won’t necessarily stop these practices. In fact, the biggest part of the motions would be reducing the priority on marijuana offenses.
Decriminalization is designed to help keep citizen’s criminal records cleared of minor drug offenses. With any sort of criminal record, citizens can find it difficult to apply for jobs, loans, or other things, which could limit their options and even encourage crime. Existing penalties for possession include up to 15 days in jail and fines up to $100 in addition to a criminal charge.
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