New Mexico Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Decriminalization Measure

SANTA FE, NM — New Mexico House and Senate lawmakers have approved legislation, Senate Bill 323, decriminalizing minor marijuana possession offenses.

The proposal now awaits action from Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

The bill reduces first-time penalties for the possession of up to one-half ounce of cannabis from a criminal misdemeanor — punishable by up to 15 days in jail — to a ‘penalty assessment,’ punishable by a $50 fine. Subsequent offenses, or in situations where the defendant possesses greater amounts of marijuana, will remain punishable by the possibility of jail time.

Police in New Mexico made over 3,600 marijuana possession arrests in 2016.

If signed into law, the reduced penalties take effect on July 1, 2019.

Twenty-one states have either legalized or decriminalized the adult possession and use of cannabis.

Broader legislation that sought to legalize the possession of marijuana by adults and regulate its commercial production and sale passed the House, but stalled in the Senate Finance Committee because the Chair failed to call the bill for a vote.

Nonetheless, the Governor has announced that she will add the issue to the agenda of the 2020 legislative session.

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