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ABQ councilors want pot decriminalized

City Councilor Isaac Benton

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A pair of Albuquerque city councilors are re-upping efforts to decriminalize marijuana in the Duke City.

City councilors Pat Davis and Isaac Benton are planning an event on Monday with Emily Kaltenbach of the Drug Policy Alliance to announce the reintroduction of legislation that will decriminalize the herb. If the legislation passes, marijuana would still be illegal in the city. But officers would be instructed to either do nothing about it or write someone a $25 ticket, similar to a parking ticket, if they catch someone with an ounce or less.

“The bottom line is if you are just possessing a small amount of marijuana, we’re going to tell police officers that they could ignore it or write you a small fine for it,” Davis said.

City Councilor Pat Davis

Officers will still have the ability to charge someone under state law. That could happen if they believe someone is using it while driving, selling it or if someone has it while they are committing another crime, Davis said.

Davis said there will be several benefits to decriminalizing pot. One, it’ll free up officers to handle more pressing calls for service. Instead of spending hours arresting and writing police reports against someone for possession of marijuana, they can instead spend a few minutes writing a ticket or do nothing at all.

And, Davis said, the law will allow young people to avoid making their first appearance in the criminal justice system for something frivolous.

Shaun Willoughby, the president of the Albuquerque police union, said he would support the legislation. He said police officers are, in most cases, not arresting people for marijuana.

“I think it’s definitely the wave of the future,” he said. “There were multiple tax benefits (from marijuana legalization) in Colorado.”

Albuquerque city councilors in 2015 voted 5-4 to decriminalize marijuana. But former Mayor Richard Berry vetoed the legislation.

Davis said he thinks New Mexico as a state is not far from having legal marijuana. Several states around the country, including Colorado, have made it legal.

“I think New Mexico will be a state to legalize when we have a change in leadership next year in Santa Fe,” Davis said.