New Mexico's State Senate voted (21-20) to pass Senate Bill 383, reducing penalties for adults who possess small amounts of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. The final vote was bi-partisan with Republican Senator Torraco and Republican Senator Ryan voting in support. Five Democrats voted against the bill (Munoz, Padilla, Clemente Sanchez, Papen, and Smith). The bill now advances to the House.
The proposed legislation makes 1 ounce or less of marijuana and possession of any drug paraphernalia a penalty assessment with a fine of $50; a penalty assessment is not considered a criminal conviction. The bill also takes away the potential for jail time for any amount up to 8 ounces. 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. Similar legislation passed the House of Representatives in 2013 with bi-partisan support.
"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." stated Emily Kaltenbach, the New Mexico State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "If ever there was a bill that advanced the smart on crime agenda and supported our New Mexican families, this is it."
New Mexicans agree it is time to change the way we are policing marijuana in the state. In November, voters in Santa Fe County and Bernalillo County voiced overwhelming support for marijuana decriminalization; Bernalillo County voting 60% and Santa Fe County voting 73% in favor of statewide decriminalization. The state's first vote on marijuana policy was not merely local; more than 40% of state voters weighed in and a clear majority of those casting ballots sent the message that voters are ready to end criminal penalties for marijuana possession. A 2013 poll by Sanderoff showed 57% of New Mexicans in favor of decriminalization.
To date, eighteen states and the District of Columbia have reduced penalties for marijuana possession. As of today, over 120 million people, or 1/3 of the U.S. population, live in jurisdictions where marijuana has been essentially decriminalized - meaning there is no jail time associated with possession.
The city of Santa Fe decriminalized small amounts of marijuana in 2014.
The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation's leading organization of people who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. DPA fights for drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights.