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House passes decreased marijuana penalties

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SANTA FE — The House today passed a bill that would decrease penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana by ending arrests or misdemeanor criminal charges for first-time offenders found with less than once ounce of the drug.

Following three hours of debate, House Bill 465 passed the floor 37-33. The bill now advances to the Senate.

The bill sponsor, Rep. Emily Kane, D-Albuquerque, said the bill is intended to help state law enforcement agencies focus on more serious crimes. She said New Mexico law enforcement agencies collectively have spent about $5 million on arrests for personal marijuana possession.

“The crux of this is that an administrative penalty, a civil penalty and a fine is going to work better for these possession amounts than incarceration, than arrests,” Kane said.

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