New Mexico Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Advances

New Mexico Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Advances

SANTA FE, NM — A bill that would reduce penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults was approved by a New Mexico House committee Tuesday on a party-line 3-2 vote.

New Mexico’s Legislative House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee voted in support of House Bill 465, reducing penalties for adults who possess small amounts of marijuana.

The bill is sponsored by New Mexico State Representative Emily Kane (D-Albuquerque), who introduced the legislation earlier this month.

The proposed legislation reduces the penalty structure for possession of up to 4 ounces to a civil penalty with increasing fines while taking away the potential for jail time for any amount up to 8 ounces.

The bill goes now to the House Judiciary Committee. But even if the measure eventually passes the Legislature, Gov. Susana Martinez, a former prosecutor, has said she’s against relaxing laws on marijuana.

Currently, in New Mexico, possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana is a petty misdemeanor crime with fines and possible jail time; over 1 ounce and up to 8 ounces of marijuana is a misdemeanor crime with large fines or possible jail time of up to 1 year.

In a recent poll conducted by Research and Polling, Inc, and commissioned by Drug Policy Alliance found that 57% of New Mexican voters are in favor of reducing possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use from a misdemeanor crime to a civil penalty with smaller fines and no jail time.

“Legislators who voted today in support of HB465 are voting with the will of New Mexicans,” stated Emily Kaltenbach, the New Mexico State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance.  “Marijuana reform is becoming a mainstream position and our elected officials are finding it is less and less of a political third rail.”

Around the country, similar change is afoot.  There is growing momentum to reduce penalties for small amounts of marijuana, with California reducing penalties in 2010, Connecticut in 2011 and Rhode Island earlier this year.

In the most recent November elections, both Colorado and Washington approved initiatives to legalize and regulate the recreational use and commercial production of marijuana.