On Monday, Albuquerque City Councilors met to discuss marijuana legislation. 5 of 9 Councilors voted that marijuana possession should result in a citation, not criminal charges. That’s right: this city just voted to decriminalize marijuana.
A Closer Look At The Legislation
Possession of under 1 ounce of marijuana would elicit a citation and a $25 fee. The bill would also lower criminal charges to civil infractions. This means that you won’t face jail time for marijuana possession. Additionally, citations will not appear on permanent criminal records. This follows a chain of decriminalization efforts across the nation.
City Councilor Pat Davis explains prior to passing legislation, “The bottom line is if you are just possessing a small amount of marijuana, we’re going to tell police officers that they could ignore it or write you a small fine for it.”
On the whole, lawmakers will allow the police decide how to enforce this marijuana legislation. They will still have the authority to issue criminal charges, as opposed to civil infractions, as they see fit. This could mean more severe repercussions for selling marijuana, driving under the influence or possession while committing a separate crime.
Authorities will, of course, not cite those with medical marijuana cards.
The Bill’s Supporters
This city just voted to decriminalized marijuana with legislation that Albuquerque City Councilors Isaac Benton and Pat Davis introduced back in March. However, this isn’t the first time Albuquerque City Councilors voted to decriminalize marijuana.
Pat Davis advocated for similar legislation five years ago and gained City Council support. After the City Council voted in favor of decriminalization in 2015—the tally was the same, 5 to 4 in favor—current former Mayor Richard Berry vetoed the bill.
President of the Albuquerque police union Shaun Willoughby advocated in favor of this legislation. “I think it’s definitely the wave of the future,” Willoughby tells The Albuquerque Journal.
Supporters of decriminalization, including director of the Drug Policy Alliance in New Mexico Emily Kaltenbach, are hopeful that current Mayor Keller will approve this legislation.
The Motivation Behind Marijuana Decriminalization
Lawmakers are looking to put police resources to better use.
City Councilor Davis maintains, “If you’ve been the victim of a burglary or sex crime, the last thing you want to know is that your rape kit or fingerprint is stuck in line behind a petty drug test at the drug lab that takes hundred dollars and several hours worth of paperwork to do.”
Per the police union president, the Albuquerque police force is also in favor of resource redistribution.
Not Everyone Supports Decriminalization
This city just voted to decriminalized marijuana by a margin of one city council member. Cynthia Borrego from District 5 told KRQE News, “You don’t know what it’s laced with it could be laced with PCBs. it could be laced with any possibility of drugs.” Concern about what could be in marijuana, Borrego is outspoken against decriminalization.
Final Hit: This City Just Voted To Decriminalize Marijuana
Though Mayor Keller has yet to sign this bill into law, many are hopeful that marijuana decriminalization is the first step towards legalization. Police union president Shaun Willoughby looks to neighboring state Colorado, which has benefitted from the marijuana industry.
“There were multiple tax benefits (from marijuana legalization) in Colorado,” Willoughby says.
Councilor Davis, a longtime marijuana legalization supporter, is optimistic. He predicts, “I think New Mexico will be a state to legalize when we have a change in leadership next year in Santa Fe.”