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Albuquerque, N.M. Passes Amendment to Decriminalize Marijuana Possession

The Albuquerque City Councilors passed an amendment 5-4 Monday that would effectively decriminalize minor marijuana possession by removing possession of an ounce or less of marijuana or paraphernalia from the city’s criminal code.

Another provision that would direct police to make possession the police department’s lowest priority and would lower penalties for possessing weed also passed 5-4.

Mayor Richard Berry has already said he would veto the council’s decision to decriminalize marijuana if it voted to do so, just as he did last year.

“We want to stay consistent with state and federal law,” said Berry’s chief of staff, Gilbert Montano. “Right now, state and federal law maintains this is a criminal act and it should stay that way.”

A paramedic who spoke during comment said safety concerns are typically not an issue with marijuana users.

“In my entire career as a paramedic, I have picked up one marijuana user,” the man testified.

The Albuquerque Police Department says small amounts of marijuana are already a low priority for the department and says it won’t take a position on the legislation. A police spokesperson told KOB that amending municipal laws against state and county laws often creates confusion when it comes to enforcing the differing laws.

But Albuquerque isn’t the only city in New Mexico dealing with the issue.

State lawmakers discussed marijuana decriminalization this past session. A bill lightening penalties didn’t make it to the governor’s desk, but it was a heavily discussed issue.

The city of Santa Fe has already decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, making the maximum penalty for an ounce of marijuana $25 and no jail time.

73 percent of Santa Fe counties voted in favor of decriminalization in a ballot question similar to Bernalillo County’s last November.

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