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Bill Cuts Penalties For Mj Possession.


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US NM: Bill Cuts Penalties For Pot Possession

 

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URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v13/n071/a02.html

Newshawk: http://www.drugsense.org/donate.htm

Votes: 0

Pubdate: Fri, 08 Feb 2013

Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)

Copyright: 2013 Albuquerque Journal

Contact: opinion@abqjournal.com

Website: http://www.abqjournal.com/

Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/10

Author: Dan Boyd

 

 

BILL CUTS PENALTIES FOR POT POSSESSION

 

Measure Ends Jail Time For Having Small Amounts

 

SANTA FE - A pair of measures aimed at scaling back New Mexico's marijuana laws hit the Legislature on Thursday, promising to light up an old debate.

 

Gov. Susana Martinez, a former prosecutor, expressed immediate opposition to the proposals, claiming jail time for possessing small amounts of marijuana is typically only ordered for people with lengthy criminal records.

 

One of the measures introduced Thursday would reduce the penalties individuals could face for having small amounts of marijuana, including eliminating the possibility of jail time for such violations.

 

Rep. Emily Kane, D-Albuquerque, a captain with the Albuquerque Fire Department, said the measure she is sponsoring would save the state money, in part by reducing jail overcrowding.

 

"I feel that incarcerating people who have a small amount of marijuana is not an appropriate use of our resources," Kane told the Journal.

 

The other marijuana-related proposal introduced Thursday would force a state agency to study the budgetary impact of regulating and taxing pot use. It is sponsored by Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, also an Albuquerque Democrat.

 

Former Republican Gov. Gary Johnson, now a Libertarian, proposed controversial drug-law reforms - including decriminalization measures - - during his second term in office. New Mexico eventually legalized a state-run medical marijuana program in 2007, but recreational use of the drug is still outlawed.

 

The Drug Policy Alliance of New Mexico, which supports the two measures introduced Thursday, cited data identifying 3,227 arrests in New Mexico in 2010 in which marijuana possession was the sole or primary charge.

 

Although federal law still prohibits marijuana use, voters in Colorado and Washington voted in 2012 to legalize, regulate and tax pot, prompting supporters of decriminalization to claim national public sentiment now tilts toward such policies.

 

"It is time to listen to our American voters who are speaking out in favor of taxing and regulating marijuana like we do alcohol and tobacco," Ortiz y Pino said in a statement.

 

However, some GOP lawmakers have questioned whether decriminalization of marijuana would worsen New Mexico's drug problem.

 

Martinez has been among those opposing decreased penalties, and a spokesman for the Republican governor said Thursday she continues to hold that stance.

 

"As a prosecutor and district attorney, the governor has seen firsthand how illegal drug use destroys lives, especially among our youth, and she opposes drug legalization or decriminalization efforts," Martinez spokesman Enrique Knell 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 conviction for things like assault, burglary and other crimes," he added.

 

Under New Mexico law, possession of up to 8 ounces of marijuana is a misdemeanor that carries with it a maximum fine of up to $1,000 and one year in jail.

 

Kane's bill would impose a maximum civil penalty of $50 for a first-time violation of having 1 ounce or less of marijuana. The fine would go up for subsequent violations, and would also increase for possessing slightly larger amounts of marijuana. However, it would remain a fourth-degree felony to have more than 8 ounces of marijuana.

 

Kane, a first-term lawmaker, stressed that her proposal would not completely decriminalize marijuana use, while also predicting that the measure would be widely backed by New Mexicans.

 

"My impression is I'm not going way down some crazy road," Kane said.

 

[sidebar]

 

At a glance

 

House Bill 465

 

Would decrease penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana. However, possession penalties would not change for synthetic marijuana. First stop: House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee.

 

Senate Joint Memorial 31

 

Would require a study focusing on the economic impact of marijuana legalization and taxation be presented to lawmakers by Nov. 31. The state Economic Development Department would oversee the study. First stop: Senate Rules Committee.

MAP posted-by: Jo-D

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