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This City Could Decriminalize Marijuana Today

Albuquerque residents wait and see if this city could decriminalize marijuana today, after past efforts were blocked by the mayor.

Adam Drury

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This City Could Decriminalize Marijuana Today

Albuquerque City Council members are meeting Monday to discuss changing the way police handle minor cannabis offenses. With support from Council members and law enforcement, this city could decriminalize marijuana today. But whether or not Albuquerque residents who use cannabis can breathe a little easier is still to be decided. City Council will meet to take final action on the decriminalization proposal today at 5 p.m.

Albuquerque Weighs Dropping Jail Time For Misdemeanor Cannabis Crimes

Back in early March, Albuquerque City Council members Pat Davis and Isaac Benton filed a bill aimed at removing criminal penalties for individuals caught with marijuana or paraphernalia.

Davis and Benton’s proposed ordinance would reduce penalties for possessing one ounce or less of cannabis.

Currently, the city’s municipal codes sanction misdemeanor possession with 15 days jail and a $50 fine for a first offense. The changes would drop the prospect of jail time and reduce fines to $25.

Furthermore, officers would issue citations for civil infractions, rather than pursue criminal charges. As a result, those who violate Albuquerque’s misdemeanor possession laws would no longer have to worry about the infraction appearing on a criminal record.

For these reasons, Albuquerque’s decriminalization proposal looks a lot like decriminalization measures in other cities.

Additionally, the ordinance enjoys majority support in every Albuquerque City Council district. Even Shaun Willoughby, the president of the Albuquerque police union, has come out in support of the bill, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Emily Kaltenbach, the state director for the Drug Policy Alliance in New Mexico, praised the Council’s efforts as taking a stand against federal prohibition and Attorney General Jeff Sessions‘ threats to crack down on states who chart a different course on cannabis.

“It is time that cities resist Jeff Sessions’ war on marijuana and stand up to the Trump administration,” Kaltenbach said. She views broad support for marijuana decriminalization as evidence that Albuquerque residents want a more just society.

Albuquerque City Council To Take Final Action On Decrim Bill Today

Despite some of the usual reservations toward progressive pot policy, this city could decriminalize marijuana today. Albuquerque residents have spoken, and their representatives have listened.

On Monday, Albuquerque City Council will meet at 5 p.m. to take final action on the decriminalization measure.

“The bottom line is if you are just possessing a small amount of marijuana, we’re going to tell police officers that they could ignore it or write you a small fine for it,” said City Councilor Pat Davis, who co-sponsored the decriminalization bill.

The plan is to leave how to handle misdemeanor cannabis possession up to the discretion of law enforcement. If police do choose to issue a civil infraction, it would be very similar to receiving a parking ticket.

Responding to concerns that marijuana decriminalization is an invitation to more serious crime, Council members explained that officers could still charge someone with a crime under New Mexico state law.

So if police believe someone is selling cannabis or using it while driving, they can still file criminal charges.

The Final Hit: This City Could Decriminalize Marijuana Today

This isn’t the first time Albuquerque City Council members have voted in favor of marijuana decriminalization, however.

In 2015, Council members voted 5-4 in favor of decriminalization. But former Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry vetoed the legislation. With a change in leadership, Davis and Benton hope their bill will succeed this time around.

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