Albuquerque, NM – Late last night, Albuquerque City Council members voted 5-4 on a party vote to remove criminal sanctions pertaining to possession of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia from the city’s municipal codes. The measure now heads to Mayor Keller’s desk for signature.
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 becomes the second city in New Mexico to remove criminal penalties for possessing small amount of marijuana. 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.
“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?”
Albuquerque residents voiced their support at the ballot box for decriminalizing marijuana. In November on 2014, 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, supports the legislation.
"This resolution is an important step forward in ending the devastating impact that marijuana arrests have on people's lives," stated Ana Moran, Field Organizer with the ACLU of New Mexico. "The current law has needlessly entangled people in the criminal justice system, has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color, and comes at a tremendous human and financial cost."
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 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 people of Albuquerque have clearly demonstrated that they want a more just society," stated Emily Kaltenbach, New Mexico state director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "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."
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.