On Wednesday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill that would reduce the penalties for anyone found in possession of marijuana, starting July 1. People who are caught with less than half an ounce of weed will now receive a $50 fine, along with a citation. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, New Mexico will become the first U.S. state to decriminalize drug paraphernalia possession.
“New Mexico just took an important step forward toward more humane marijuana policies. It will no longer brand cannabis consumers criminals or threaten them with jail time for simple possession." -Karen O'Keefe, MPP's director of state policies https://t.co/Qi3G4FIX4A— Marijuana Policy Project (@MarijuanaPolicy) April 4, 2019
"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," Emily Kaltenbach, New Mexico State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. "Since many items that are characterized as paraphernalia have multiple uses, these laws have been subject to abuse, allowing police to be very selective in their enforcement – disproportionately harming black, brown and Native communities."
Kaltenbach is confident that this new law could eventually lead to the state legalizing marijuana in the future. Back on March 8, legislation for legalization passed in the House by a slim 36-34 vote. The bill was moved onto the Senate Public Affairs Committee where it encountered an impasse with the Finance Committee, and their chairman who refused to bring the bill up for a vote.
The Albuquerque Journal reports that Grisham plans to include weed legalization as part of her 2020 legislative session, which could potentially make New Mexico the 11th state to take such action.