Mayor signs new pot bill into law - Albuquerque Journal

Mayor signs new pot bill into law

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

This file photo shows Albuquerque City Councilors voting 5 to 4 in favor of the decriminalization of small quantity of marijuana during an April 2 meeting. The mayor signed the bill Thursday. Adolphe Pierre-Louis/ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL

Mayor Tim Keller signed a bill Thursday decriminalizing the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana in the city.

The legislation, passed by city councilors last week, replaces the criminal penalty of fines and jail time for such possession with a $25 civil fine.

Authorities warned that marijuana possession remains a criminal offense under state and federal law.

“Removing the criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana will free up precious resources for law enforcement, who have plenty on their plate already,” Keller said in a statement. “We’re facing real challenges in Albuquerque and this is a step in the right direction to allow our officers the flexibility to better prioritize their time tackling violent crime and property crime in our city.”

APD Spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said that 177 police reports were filed for marijuana possession in 2016 and 120 reports in 2017.

Police Chief Michael Geier said, “This new legislation allows officers to focus on violent crime, property crime and drunk driving. It’s important for the public to be aware that this does not change state or federal law and officers will still have a choice to pursue criminal charges when appropriate.”

Still, Albuquerque Police Officers Association President Shaun Willoughby said the legislation won’t impact policing in Albuquerque “one iota,” as far as resources and man-hours.

Willoughby said issuing misdemeanor citations for marijuana possession has been common practice for decades – the only difference here is a “little less” of a penalty for the offender.

“The truth of the matter is, it’s not going to change the job of an officer,” he said. “It’s kind of a moot point … You still have to tag the evidence into evidence, you still have to write a report.”

He said the one positive about the legislation is it doesn’t take away an officer’s “discretion” of utilizing the state code to make an arrest under a “mitigating circumstance.”

City Councilors Pat Davis and Isaac Benton re-introduced the legislation earlier this year after a previous bill was vetoed in 2015 by former Mayor Richard Berry.

“I hope this move encourages other cities to follow our lead, and more importantly I hope it sends a message to legislators in Santa Fe and Washington that repealing criminal cannabis laws is good politics and good policy,” Davis said in a statement.

Decriminalized adult use of cannabis is common-sense public policy, Benton said in a statement.

“Having tried once before to pass it, I appreciate Councilor Davis’ leadership and Mayor Keller’s support this time around,” he said.

Albuquerque joins Santa Fe and a growing list of cities where those who possess small amounts of marijuana are no longer subject to a criminal penalty.

Santa Fe decriminalized marijuana in 2014, but Santa Fe Police Spokesman Greg Gurule said the move has had a negligible effect on policing.

He said it remains up to the officer whether to issue a civil citation, make a criminal arrest under state law or even confiscate the marijuana and send the person on their way without either.

“It’s easier for the officer to do that,” Gurule said, “there’s no paperwork.”

Gallegos said the standard operating procedure to enforce the new law is still in the works by authorities.

The signed legislation will take effect next week, according to city officials..


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

Nativo Sponsored Content

taboola desktop

MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS

1
United Way to serve as literacy resource
ABQnews Seeker
211 service is a free connection, ... 211 service is a free connection, referral to information
2
Rep. supports UNM graduate workers' organizing for collective bargaining ...
ABQnews Seeker
University is fighting a labor board ... University is fighting a labor board ruling that recognized the union
3
Proposal to curb governor's emergency powers stymied again
ABQnews Seeker
A renewed attempt to limit the ... A renewed attempt to limit the emergency powers of New Mexico's governor stalled Wednesday in a House committee. The proposal, House Joint Resolution 3, ...
4
Cases, hospitalizations and deaths all up in NM
ABQnews Seeker
Congresswoman one of many to test ... Congresswoman one of many to test positive for COVID-19
5
Charges lodged in shooting at apartment party around Halloween
ABQnews Seeker
Victim was shot in the face ... Victim was shot in the face but survived
6
Five charged in Albuquerque drug theft plot that left ...
ABQnews Seeker
'I'll never be the same,' says ... 'I'll never be the same,' says father of slain 19-year-old
7
Supreme Court: Former sheriff can resume his role as ...
ABQnews Seeker
Torrance County jurist had been suspended ... Torrance County jurist had been suspended over AG's felony allegations
8
Lawmakers clash over student ID for voting
ABQnews Seeker
Amendment to proposal for new Election ... Amendment to proposal for new Election Day rules faces objections
9
Pretrial detention bills getting pushback at the Roundhouse
ABQnews Seeker
One measure backed by the governor ... One measure backed by the governor is pulled to address legality, other worries