Today, Albuquerque City Council members, Pat Davis and Isaac Benton, filed a new bill to remove criminal sanctions pertaining to possession of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia from the city’s municipal codes.
The proposed ordinance makes one ounce or less of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia a civil infraction with a fine of $25. A civil infraction is not considered a criminal conviction. The ordinance also takes away the potential for jail time. Currently, a person can spend more than two weeks in jail for a first offense and 90 days for a subsequent offense.
Albuquerque residents voiced their support at the ballot box for decriminalizing marijuana. In November on 2016, voters in Santa Fe County and Bernalillo County voiced overwhelming support for marijuana decriminalization – Bernalillo County voted 60 percent and Santa Fe County voted 73 percent in favor of statewide decriminalization. More than 50 percent of Albuquerque voters in all nine city council districts voted to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. On March 2nd, the Albuquerque Journal reported that Shaun Willoughby, the president of the Albuquerque police union, will support the legislation.
“It is time that cities resist Jeff Sessions’ war on marijuana and stand up to the Trump administration,” stated Emily Kaltenbach, New Mexico state director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Cities know best the contours of their own problems – and are therefore best positioned to craft meaningful solutions to those problems. Do we want to be the kind of society that arrests and jails 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? Why would we knowingly put our children and police officers at risk by stretching our law enforcement beyond their means with low-level crimes that do not threaten our community? The people of Albuquerque have clearly demonstrated that they want a more just society. I am very confident that this measure will take us one step closer to that goal and I look forward to working with elected officials and Mayor Keller to bring practical marijuana reform to Albuquerque.”
Santa Fe decriminalized small amounts of marijuana in 2014. In 2015, former Councilor Garduño and Councilor Benton sponsored a similar measure that passed the council 5-4 on a party line vote. However, it was vetoed by Mayor Berry.
In February, the Jackson, MS city council voted unanimously to decriminalize marijuana. Jackson joined Atlanta, Memphis and New Orleans as marijuana reform picks up momentum in southern municipalities. More than 120 million people – or one-third of the U.S. population – live in jurisdictions where marijuana has been essentially decriminalized, meaning there is no jail time associated with possession.
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.