Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill Wednesday night that allows people caught with up to half an ounce of cannabis to escape with only a penalty assessment and a $50 fine.
SB 323, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Cervantes, D-Las Cruces, also confines punishment for amounts of cannabis between half an ounce and an ounce to a misdemeanor, a fine between $50 and $100 or no more than 15 days in jail for a first offense.
The bill, which passed the House 44-20 and the Senate 30-8, falls well short of full legalization as many in the state had hoped for, yet still signals a relaxation of New Mexico's drug laws, and some see Gov. Lujan Grisham as a welcome ally in the fight for looser cannabis regulation. The provisions of the law are set to go into effect on July 1 of this year.
"I support it," Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber tells SFR upon hearing the news. "Personally, I support legalizing, regulating and taxing cannabis, I think it's going to happen, and I think the Legislature took some initial steps at exploring it and is ultimately something New Mexico will do, and hopefully do it in a timely way."
"It is a good step," the mayor says. "Further evidence that we have a real governor in the Roundhouse, as opposed to someone who doesn't really lead and doesn't have a vision and treats it as a placeholder. I'm excited."
The new state law might not feel drastic within the city of Santa Fe, however, where police have been instructed by a city ordinance since 2014 to treat small amounts of marijuana possession as "the lowest law enforcement priority." City cops, however, had discretion to issue citations under state law, and an SFR investigation in 2016 showed they still did.
State law still criminalizes amounts above one ounce with a fine of $100-$1,000 and/or a prison sentence of no more than one year.
Want more cannabis news? Sign up for SFR's monthly Leaf Brief newsletter.