Yesterday New Mexico’s House of Representatives approved House Bill 465, which would decriminalizes up to 4 ounces of cannabis. The measure passed by a vote of 37-33, and now moves to the Senate.
Under the proposal, possession of up to a 4 ounces of cannabis — a quarter pound — would no longer be an arrestable misdemeanor offense, but would instead be a civil infraction of no more than $100. Possession of an ounce or less would a $50 ticket.
Penalties for possessing 4 – 8 ounces, which can currently net someone up to a year in prison, would also be lowered to include no possibility of jail time; although the charge would remain a misdemeanor.
The measure was initially appointed to New Mexico’s House Committee on Consumer and Public Affairs, which passed the measure by a vote of 3-2. The measure now heads to the state Senate for approval. But even if it does pass muster, it could face strong opposition from the governor’s office. Earlier this week, Gov. Susana Martinez released a statement formalizing her opposition to the measure:
“As a prosecutor and district attorney, the governor has seen first-hand how illegal drug use destroys lives, especially among our youth, and she opposes drug legalization or decriminalization efforts,” the release said. “Proponents of these efforts often ignore the fact that the vast majority of people convicted for possessing small amounts of marijuana are diverted to treatment programs and those who are sentenced to prison are individuals with long criminal records with convictions for things like assault, burglary, and other crimes.””
Recent polling shows that 52% in the state support legalizing cannabis, and 57% support reducing penalties associated with its possession.
Toke of the Town contributor Anthony Martinelli is the founder of TheJointBlog.com.