SANTA FE, N.M. — Santa Fe’s advisory Public Safety Committee on Tuesday panned the city’s new ordinance that decriminalizes possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.
“It’s unlawful but it’s not a big deal?” said committee member Joe Arellano . “I’m not sure I understand.”
Former police chief Eric Johnson also referred to part of the new law that makes busts for possession of small amounts of pot the lowest law enforcement priority in Santa Fe. Johnson wanted to know what the means and said in his view marijuana remains “a gateway drug.” He predicted “major problems” with the decriminalization measure.
“We’re putting police officers in a really bad position,” said committee member Mike Bowen.
The committee voted unanimously to have nothing to do with the pot law, even rejecting an amendment to clarify that it remains “unlawful” to have an ounce or less of pot in Santa Fe. Under the new city ordinance, the violation is a civil offense subject to a fine of no more than $25. But state law, under which possession of small amounts of marijuana is a criminal misdemeanor, also remains in effect and Santa Fe officers have the discretion to charge offenders under either the city or state law.
The committee also voted against a measure to establish administrative procedures for pot decriminalization, including having city hearing officers for appeals from offenders who don’t want to pay a fine.
The City Council recently adopted the pot decriminalization ordinance in a 5-4 vote. A successful petition drive had collected thousands of signatures to put the measure on the November general election ballot, but the council majority decided to bypass voters and adopt the measure by council vote.