The New Mexico State Senate passed a bill that would reduce the penalties associated with the possession of marijuana. The bill had bipartisan support from Senate members and the bill now advances to the House of Representatives.
The state voted on similar legislation in 2013. The bill passed the House of Representatives, but the Senate failed to act on the bill before lawmakers adjourned for the year.
The proposed legislation makes the possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana a $50 fine. The bill also takes away the potential for jail time for the possession of any amount up to 8 ounces. Currently, in New Mexico, the possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana is treated as a petty misdemeanor crime. The penalty associated with the crime is fines and possible jail time.
“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. Even more troubling is that young people and people of color are disproportionally arrested for marijuana in our state,” Emily Kaltenbach, the New Mexico State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. “If ever there was a bill that advanced the smart on crime agenda and supported our New Mexican families, this is it.”
Growing support for decriminalization
In November, voters in Santa Fe County and Bernalillo County voiced overwhelming support for marijuana decriminalization. 60% of voters in Bernalillo County and 73% of voters Santa Fe County voted in favor of statewide decriminalization. Santa Fe decriminalized small amounts of marijuana in 2014.
There has been growing support for marijuana decriminalization and eighteen states and the District of Columbia have reduced penalties for marijuana possession. Approximately 1/3 of the United States population, live in jurisdictions where marijuana has been essentially decriminalized.