Albuquerque decriminalizes marijuana
Last update: April 17, 2018
On April 12, 2018, Albuquerque’s mayor signed an ordinance that decriminalizes simple possession of marijuana under city law.
The ordinance reduces the city’s penalty for under an ounce of marijuana to $25 civil fine. Police Chief Mike Geier voiced his support, saying, “This new legislation allows officers to focus on violent crime, property crime and drunk driving.”
Albuquerque joins two other localities in supporting decriminalization. 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.
The legislature adjourned its 2018 session in February, and bills to decriminalize and regulate marijuana (SB 141, SJR 4, and HB 312) did not even receive a vote.
New Mexico is one of 29 states (plus D.C.) that have removed criminal penalties for the medical use of marijuana. As of March 2018, there were 50,954 registered patients served by dozens of licensed nonprofit producers. In addition, 6,847 patients have licenses to cultivate cannabis for themselves.
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.
While New Mexico’s marijuana laws are less draconian than those of most states, the state still criminalizes its residents for using a substance that is safer than alcohol. Possession of one ounce or less of marijuana for nonmedical 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.
In 2015, the Senate approved a bill to replace criminal penalties for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana with a $50 civil fine, but the House failed to take a vote on the measure.
- Ask your state legislators to support imposing a modest civil fine, not jail time, on simple possession of marijuana.
- Urge your legislators to replace marijuana prohibition with sensible regulations.
To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in New Mexico, subscribe to MPP’s free legislative alert service.