New Mexico misses opportunity to decriminalize marijuana
Last update: November 4, 2015
The New Mexico Legislature’s 2015 session ended in late March, and with it died SB 383, a bill that would have decriminalized marijuana throughout the state.
SB 383 would have replaced criminal penalties for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana with a $50 civil fine. It also would have removed the possibility of jail time for possession of up to eight ounces. Although SB 383 passed the Senate with a bipartisan vote, the House did not take it up.
The state legislature failed to act despite a strong call from voters. In November 2014, voters in Santa Fe and Bernalillo Counties — representing 40% of the state’s population — approved advisory questions asking their elected officials to support decriminalization. The questions won with 73% support in Santa Fe County and 59% in Bernalillo County.
It’s time for the Land of Enchantment to join 20 other states and D.C. and stop arresting people for possessing marijuana. Please urge your legislators to support decriminalization next year.
Marijuana laws in New Mexico
New Mexico is one of 23 states (plus D.C.) that have removed criminal penalties for the medical use of marijuana. As of fall 2015, there are about 18,000 registered patients who are served by 23 non-profit producers. The health department is in the process of licensing 12 more producers, which would bring the total to 35. For information on New Mexico’s medical marijuana program, including information on qualifying conditions and how to become a patient, please visit the New Mexico Health Department’s information page.
For non-medical use, New Mexico’s marijuana laws are less draconian than those of most states. Possession of one ounce or less of marijuana for non-medical purposes is punishable by a $50-100 fine and up to 15 days in jail. A second offense, or a conviction for possession of more than an ounce, can lead to a fine of up to $1,000 and a prison term of up to one year.
However, 20 other states have removed the possibility of jail time, with four of them legalizing marijuana for adults and regulating it like alcohol. In both 2014 and 2015, Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino sponsored a resolution to ask voters whether to end marijuana prohibition in New Mexico, replacing it with taxation and regulation. Please encourage your legislators to support regulating marijuana like alcohol.
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