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New deadline for SF pot proposal

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SANTA FE – A petition calling for decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana in Santa Fe came up well short of the number of signatures needed to get the measure on the ballot for the November general election.

But that doesn’t mean the effort has completely gone up in smoke. City Clerk Yolanda Vigil said Friday that state statutes allow petitioners up to 90 days to collect signatures, so her office will again be accepting petition signatures starting on Monday.

Emily Kaltenbach, state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which is helping lead the petition effort, said volunteers will be out collecting signatures at Santa Fe’s Farmers Market, the Spanish Market on the Plaza and other locations around town this weekend.

Vigil previously had said the petitions needed to be filed by July 15 to get a measure before voters for the general election. But now she’s giving the pot petitioners the full 90-day gathering period provided for by law.

“We’ll spend the weekend collecting and we’re hoping in the next week or so we’ll be able to meet that 5,763 threshold,” Kaltenbach said.

That many signatures from registered Santa Fe voters is needed to call an election on the proposal. The city charter requires petitioners for a ballot measure to have total signatures equal to one-third of the total voters in the last mayoral election.

The petitions also must have signatures from at least 10 percent of the number of people who voted within each of the city’s four City Council districts. Vigil said that threshold has been met.

The clerk said only 3,569 of the 7,048 signatures filed on the previously set July 15 were validated as those of registered city voters, leaving supporters of pot decriminalization 2,194 signatures short of the number required.

So proponents have a new deadline to meet. To have a chance to go before city voters in November, the measure must be placed on the ballot by the Santa Fe County Commission. And to get it on the agenda for the commission’s Aug. 26 meeting – the last meeting before the ballot has to be certified by the county clerk on Sept. 9 – materials must be turned in by Aug. 13, according to county spokeswoman Kristine Mihelcic.

Meanwhile, the City Council at its meeting on Wednesday will consider publishing notice to hold a public hearing Aug. 27 on the ballot proposal.

The council has the option of calling for a special election on the decriminalization proposal, if there are enough signatures, or could vote to adopt the measure without putting it before voters.

The petition calls for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana or instruments used to smoke it to be a civil infraction subject to a fine of no more than $25. Currently, first-time offenders face criminal charges punishable by a fine of $50 to $100 and not more than 15 days in jail.

A similar petition effort is underway in Albuquerque. Pat Davis of ProgressNow New Mexico, another group assisting in the petition effort, said about 11,000 signatures are needed in Albuquerque and about 8,000 have already been turned in. The deadline to turn in the Duke City petitions is Monday.

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