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House committee approves reduced marijuana penalties

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A House committee has approved a bill to reduce penalties for marijuana possession. The Consumer and Public Affairs Committee endorsed the bill on a 3-2 vote.

Sponsored by Albuquerque fire captain Emily Kane, a freshman Democrat, it does away with jail time for possessing less than eight ounces of marijuana. Offenders instead would be fined.

Kane said it would save the state money and free up police to focus on more serious crimes.

It’s one of the pieces of legislation supported by the Drug Policy Alliance, which today released a poll it commissioned from Research & Polling, Inc. It showed that 57 percent of voters polled favor reducing the penalty for adults possessing marijuana from a misdemeanor crime to a civil penalty.

The same poll showed that 52 percent of voters support legalizing marijuana for adults, so that it could be taxed and regulated like alcohol.

Another Albuquerque lawmaker says a constitutional change to legalize marijuana could be in front of the Legislature as early as next year.

Democratic Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino is sponsoring a measure this session asking the Economic Development Department to study the economic impacts of taxing and regulating marijuana.

Ortiz y Pino said today that depending on the outcome of that study, he would introduce the constitutional amendment next year.

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