Marijuana reform activists gathered enough signatures for a marijuana decriminalization measure in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The measure would have to go before the Santa Fe City Council, and the council would either pass the measure outright, or refer it to voters in the next election. Most people were assuming that the council would pass on the issue and leave it up to voters to decide. That route would have required some campaigning and dedicating more resources. Fortunately, that didn’t happen because the Santa Fe City Council decided to vote on the measure, and passed it. Per the Santa Fe Reporter:
In a surprise move, Santa Fe City Council voted to decriminalized marijuana Wednesday night.
The resolution, passed narrowly on a 5-4 vote, changes the city’s penalties for possessing one ounce of marijuana or less and marijuana-related paraphernalia from a criminal misdemeanor punishable by a $50-$100 fine and up to 15 days in prison to a civil infraction and a $25 fee. It also instructs the city’s police officers to treat possession of small amounts of marijuana as the lowest law enforcement priority.
The vote comes after a summer’s worth of organizing by Drug Policy Action and ProgressNow NM to get a decriminalization question to voters on the November general election ballot this fall. Santa Fe is now the first city in New Mexico to decriminalize petty pot crimes. Emily Kaltenbach, state director of Drug Policy Action, a 501(c)4 affiliated with Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico, came out of the Council chambers with mixed emotions.
This is a great thing for the people of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Kudos to the Drug Policy Alliance and ProgressNow NM for making this happen. Santa Fe now joins Washington D.C. as having the best marijuana decriminalization law in the country. My home State of Oregon was the first to pass marijuana decriminalization in America, and I have to say, I’m a bit jealous of Santa Fe. The penalty in Oregon is $500, an enormous amount compared to the penalty in Santa Fe. I hope that law enforcement respects the measure, and doesn’t do what they are doing in Philadelphia. Philadelphia also recently passed marijuana decriminalization, however, their police force is hiding behind state law instead of city law, and are acting as if the reform never occurred.