Lawmakers yesterday introduced a bill to reduce marijuana possession penalties in New Mexico.
If passed, State rep. Emily Kane’s House Bill 465 would make possession of an ounce or less a civil penalty of $50. Second offense would be a misdemeanor, punishable by a $100 fine. Between one and four ounces of marijuana would be considered a civil penalty as well, but with an increased fine of $100. A second offense for that weight would result in a $200 fine. Between four and eight ounces would be a misdemeanor charge, with up $300 in fines. More than eight ounces will still net you a felony.
|Rep. Emily Kane.|
The bill also makes possession of synthetic cannabinoids (like Spice) a misdemeanor, with first offense possession of less than an ounce punishable by up to $100 in fines and 15 days in jail. Second offense can get you up to a year in jail.
According to the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Arrest Research Program, there were 3,277 pot possession arrests in New Mexico in 2010 alone. That number represents about one-third of the total drug arrests in that state. One county alone, Dona Ana, was responsible for 28 percent of those arrests. Clearly someone in Dona Ana has a hard-on for busting cannabis users. New Mexico spends about $5 million each year on marijuana arrests alone, according to one study.
“Having to expend scarce police resources pursuing and arresting non-violent adults for possessing small amounts of marijuana threatens our public’s safety,” stated Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) Executive Director Neill Franklin in a Drug Policy Alliance press release. “When our police officers are on duty they should have access to the resources they need in order to deal with serious violent crime and to keep our communities safe. Limited resources like investigative time, crime lab analysts and jail and prison beds are needed for pedophiles, rapists and murderers.”
|Sen. Garald Ortiz y Pino.|
This is the third marijuana-related bill before the New Mexico legislature this year. Also yesterday, State Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino introduced a bill that would require the state to conduct a study on the budget implications of legalizing and regulating marijuana in New Mexico.The bill doesn’t legalize anything, but rather would force the state to examine the wasteful and expensive cost of prohibition in that state, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.
A third bill, also sponsored by Kane, would create a “twenty-four seven sobriety program” as an alternative to incarceration for people found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs (including marijuana). It would require up to twice-daily drug and alcohol monitoring from law enforcement, but sponsors say it would prevent people from lengthy jail times. The bill could also be applied to other drug and alcohol offenses.