Yesterday, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry vetoed legislation that would have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana for personal possession as well as a resolution that would have made marijuana a low priority for law enforcement.
Statement by Emily Kaltenbach:
"Mayor Berry, in his public statement on why he vetoed the marijuana decriminalization legislation, said that he has a "hard time signing legislation that pre-empts state and federal law." This reasoning lags behind history and the public's will. Over 115 million people, or one-third of the U.S. population, live in jurisdictions where marijuana has been decriminalized, Oregon decriminalized marijuana more than 40 years ago. Santa Fe, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia decriminalized marijuana last year.
"Voters in Bernalillo County voted overwhelmingly in favor of reducing marijuana penalties in the November election. Nearly 91 percent of the precincts in Bernalillo County said "yes" to reducing penalties. Overall, 60 percent of voters in the county voted in favor of penalty reductions.
"Albuquerque deserves to have a police department that has the resources and training to deal with serious violent crimes. Why would we knowingly put our children and police officers at risk by stretching our law enforcement beyond their means with nonviolent and low-level crimes that do not threaten our community? Reducing marijuana penalties will help law enforcement resources be spent more efficiently and effectively.
"The decision Berry faced was rooted in a moral question. Do we want to be the kind of society that arrests and jails nonviolent adults - who are disproportionately people of color and low-income - for possessing a substance that's unequivocally been shown to be far less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco?
"The people of Bernalillo County have clearly demonstrated that they want a more just society. Unfortunately, their mayor did not take note."