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New Mexico Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Passes in House

By Thomas H. Clarke March 12, 2013 New Mexico Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Passes in House
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SANTA FE, NM — A bill that would reduce penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults was passed Monday on the floor of the House by a 37-33 vote after a heated debate by lawmakers, but faces a difficult deadline for passing in the Senate before lawmakers adjourn.

House Bill 465, sponsored by Rep. Emily Kane (D-Alburquerque) would reduce penalties for adults who possess up to 4 ounces to a civil penalty with increasing fines between $50 and $300, while eliminating the potential for jail time for any amount up to 8 ounces.

“Spending $5 million a year to arrest people with small amounts of marijuana is a waste of resources,” Kane said during a three-hour debate on the bill. “We could put that money to better use.”

“Reducing penalties for adults to possess small amounts of marijuana just makes sense,” said Kane.

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.

“Why on God’s green Earth would we want to spend money throwing college kids in jail for having a few joints when we could be spending that money on early childhood education?” asked Rep.  Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) during the debate, calling marijuana laws”institutional state stupidity.”

Opponents said the proposal would send the wrong message to young people about marijuana.

“The perception of risk is a problem. Because as we lower penalties or decriminalize, or however you want to word it, we now imply that it is a safe drug,” said Rep. William Rehm (R-Albuquerque), a retired police officer.

The bill had limited bi-partisan support, with two Republicans, House Minority Whip Nate Gentry and Rep. Terry McMillan of Las Cruces, joining 35 Democrats to vote in favor of the bill. Three House Democrats voted against the bill.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a former prosecutor, has vowed to veto any marijuana decriminalization bill that passes the legislature.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a former prosecutor, has vowed to veto any marijuana decriminalization bill that passes the legislature.

The bill now advances to the Senate, who have only four days left to act on the bill before lawmakers adjourn, concluding New Mexico’s 60-day legislative session.

Even if the measure passes the Senate before the end of the session, Gov. Susana Martinez, a former prosecutor, has said she’s against relaxing laws on marijuana and could potentially veto the bill.

“As a prosecutor and district attorney, the governor has seen first-hand how illegal drug use destroys lives, especially among our youth, and she opposes drug legalization or decriminalization efforts,” a spokesperson from the Governor’s Office said in a statement Monday.

The last major push for decriminalization of marijuana in New Mexico was in 2001, when Gary Johnson, an advocate for drug-law reform, was governor.

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.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/anurotic.mess Melissa Pulz

    why the hell dont they just legalize weed.. it would cut out any need to arrest or fine anyone with it at all.. and save so much time.

  • Eddie Eichelburger

    Because us negroes will have relationship w white women.
    Govt. scared on the brown skin.

  • PelonSuxs

    fuk u governor

  • http://churchofsmoke.org/ Jose

    There should be a law that stops prosecutors to run for public office.

  • http://churchofsmoke.org/ Jose

    Guns and marijuana will be the two top issues in the 2016 election. Rand Paul is on the right side of both and Hillary Clinton is on the wrong side

    Abortion, the economy, and terrorism will be distractions. Legalizing marijuana will do more than anything else at this time to advance the civil rights issue.

  • http://churchofsmoke.org/ Jose

    Guns and marijuana will be the two top issues in the 2016 election. Rand Paul is on the right side of both and Hillary Clinton is on the wrong side

    Abortion, the economy, and terrorism will be distractions. Legalizing marijuana will do more than anything else at this time to advance the civil rights issue.

    People who are against a police state should think twice before electing a prosecutor for governor.

  • GhettO1stamendment

    See this shit is just wacky, So Mexico will be able to move a half pound at a time into the states with hardly any consequences, and in the meantime the States sitting on their hands not allowing for fair market in this trade will lose out on a lot of possibility’s for revenue. Why do we feed other countries economy before our own? Our Government is not
    lookout for your best interest.

    • http://www.facebook.com/davecuellar85 Smash Diggins

      you do realize NM is in the U.S.?

  • http://www.facebook.com/MichaelnRebecca Rebecca Lindsey

    It’s pretty ridiculous to veto a bill that 57% of her constituents support. What was her experience as a prosecutor regarding offenses committed as a result of alcohol? Does she feel alcohol should be legal? If so, what kind of message does that send to young people? You shouldn’t smoke a joint and mellow out, but you SHOULD get drunk and beat the heck out of somebody, or drive drunk and possibly kill somebody! This governor should join the REAL world and not the world created by lies like Reefer Madness. There is scientific proof of the medicinal benefits of marijuana….in it’s natural form….not just it’s pharmaceutical one!

  • http://twitter.com/420_college 420 College

    listen to the guy that said
    “Why on God’s green Earth would we want to spend money throwing
    college kids in jail for having a few joints when we could be spending
    that money on early childhood education?”he’s making sense. http://420college.net

  • http://www.facebook.com/terry.andersen.14 Terry Andersen

    I have always said too much money, time and valuable resources are spent on arresting and incarcerating individuals for personal marijuana use and possession. Had no idea it was $5 million, but know it is a waste of taxpayers money. So, did the Bill pass?

  • MATT

    She has seen first hand how ILLEGAL drug use has destroyed lives. I would like to know the story of someone whose life was destroyed by marijuana, other than if they were arrested for it and that ruined their life.

  • RonM

    Thank you,

    to all who favor freedom in New Mexico, the nation watches and the resolve builds to end Marijuana Prohibition in the United States of America

    We have to keep the pressure on our government to decriminalize marijuana

    Please sign the new whitehouse petition,

    http://wh.gov/lOmFK

    Decriminalize marijuana, and pardon all marijuana convictions. Over 100,000,000 U.S. Citizens have used marijuana.

    With over 500,000 marijuana arrests costing over $10 billion annually, and with more than half of U.S. Citizens

    favoring legalization the time is here to end marijuana prohibition.

    Marijuana prohibition is very costly to society, wasting billions of dollars and billions of hours in law

    enforcement, justice system and penal system time, it also destroys families and personal lives and futures.

    The effects of marijuana both physically and socially are less harmful than alcohol or tobacco, and adults should

    be entitled to make the decision whether or not to consume marijuana.

    It’s time to finally put an end to the criminalization of marijuana, This would not only allow our government to

    save billions of dollars, but could be a source of income and bring in billions of dollars in revenue.

    Thank you,

    RonM

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  • TM

    It is safer than alcohol so what message are you sending the kids now? Don’t forget…..if the kids want it then they will find it, legal or not so I agree, quit wasting your resources on petty crimes and do something that will truly make a difference!

  • Totah Sam

    Our Tea Party governator has to go.

  • adam

    governor m. wont make reelection if her party has different views then her. she stands for the conservative side. The traditional family with kids white picked fence…..bla, bla, bla. governor need to see with better eyes then that. pot heads as we are branded, are looked at as people who hide from the world because we are not understood. all this time wasted in jail for what….our pockets getting even more empty. Question: if they decriminalize and all these prison are relieving these minor pot offenders. We would have more room to fill them with killers, rapists, and thief’s, it will make the state gobs of money cuz i would purchase a bag every pay day or so. keep it at home….i would never drive with it. that asking for trouble. so…governor….if you want re-election start appealing to the crowds or, we will replace you with someone that can make this state pros-pure, release wrongfully poisoned potheads that just what to be apart of society. if the gays get thier day then we can too.

  • adam

    Wow…100,000,000 x the number of times a person would buy a 50 bag…8 grams by that amount of people…..let’s do that math………..50,000,000,000….is their something wrong with this picture……hello Governor any body home. smoke to pay off the countries debt…sound good to me….lets let out all those prisoners and watch as our taxes go down as far as locking people up for pot is in a adult way of being childish. I’m glad this is happening. The gay community can get married but the pot heads get the jail cell…finally someones waking up. hope to see N.M. relieve their prisons cutting our spending al-l-l-ot! while making tons of cash off good grade buds. let’s make it happen, let’s show them reefer madness is a crack of Sh%#t!