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Seeking Relaxed Marijuana Laws

May 27, 2014, 12:00 am

Two political groups are advocating for ballot initiatives in Santa Fe and Albuquerque this fall that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana use and paraphernalia.

ProgressNow New Mexico and Drug Policy Action, a 501(c)(4) that’s affiliated with Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico, filed a petition to the Santa Fe city clerk this week to start the process of a formal ballot initiative.

If backers can get enough signatures from the city’s registered voters, a future election would feature a question about whether the Santa Fe should drop marijuana possession of an ounce or less from a petty misdemeanor to a civil infraction. In other words, the proposal would take away the possibility of jail time for people caught with small amounts of marijuana or paraphernalia and instead fine them $25 dollars for each violation.

“It’s akin to a parking ticket or traffic infraction,” says Alex Curtas, a director of research and special projects for ProgressNow New Mexico.

Emily Kaltenbach, the state director of Drug Policy Alliance, adds that current law enforcement handling of marijuana possession wastes city resources.

“To consume and possess alcohol isn’t a crime, and some people would say that alcohol is, if not equal, then more dangerous than marijuana,” she says. “So why are we incarcerating people for possessing small amounts that they’re using for personal use?”

Santa Fe’s city attorney must next approve the language in the proposed ballot initiative. After that, the advocates will have to gather signatures from residents in each city council district to get the questions on the ballot this fall.


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