New Mexico passes bill to decriminalize marijuana possession

Jamie Grill, Getty Images
Jamie Grill, Getty Images

A recently approved law makes New Mexico the 24th state to decriminalize marijuana.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) on Wednesday signed Senate Bill 323, greatly reducing penalties for getting caught possessing small amounts of marijuana, reports KRQE.

The new law, which goes into effect July 1, will levy a civil citation and a $50 fine to anyone caught with less than half an ounce of marijuana for the first time. Currently, that offense is considered a misdemeanor and carries a possible 15 days in jail.

However, anyone found with larger amounts of cannabis is still subject to misdemeanor or felony charges and jail time, depending on the quantity in possession.

Advocates of marijuana law reform laud the decision as a step in the right direction.

“New Mexico just took an important step forward toward more humane marijuana policies,” Karen O’Keefe, the Marijuana Policy Project’s director of state policies, said in a statement posted to Twitter. “It will no longer brand cannabis consumers criminals or threaten them with jail time for simple possession.”

The bill also decriminalizes and reduces the civil penalty for possession of drug paraphernalia — such as pipes and vaporizers — to $50 with a citation. According to the pro-legalization group the Drug Policy Alliance, New Mexico is the first state in the U.S. to pass such a law.

“This law is also historic as it represents the first time a state has repealed criminal penalties for drug paraphernalia,” said Emily Kaltenbach, New Mexico director of the Drug Policy Alliance, in a statement. “Decriminalizing drug paraphernalia will not only save taxpayers money and free up law enforcement resources – it will prioritize health and safety over punishment and begin to reduce the stigma associated with problematic drug use.”

Oscar Pascual is the editor of Smell the Truth, syndicated on GreenState and SFGATE. Smell The Truth is one of the internet’s most popular destinations for cannabis-related news and culture. This blog is not written or edited by Hearst. The authors are solely responsible for the content.