Several bills aimed at reducing penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana are scheduled for hearings this week in Santa Fe. Advocates are using a new poll to illustrate that a majority of New Mexicans favor the idea.
The Drug Policy Alliance held a news conference to show results of a poll taken last month shows that 57% of the state's voters favor reducing the penalty for small amounts of marijuana from a misdemeanor crime to a civil penalty with smaller fines and no jail time.
Representative Antonio Maestas says New Mexicans want to see law enforcement spend their time fighting serious crimes. "In the hour that it takes to process a pot smoker," Maestas says, "police could be spending time patrolling the streets and fighting serious crimes like burglaries and domestic violence."
The Drug Policy Alliance's poll also showed that a 52% of voters also say they support legalizing marijuana for adults and taxing and regulating it the way alcohol is. Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino's measure would study potential revenues and savings. If the results are positive, the senator says he would push for a constitutional amendment like those in Colorado and Washington that were approved in November.
But State Senator Stuart Ingle, a Republican from Portales, says he's against legalizing marijuana. "It's still illegal at the federal level," Ingle pointed out. "I don't know what Washington and Colorado are doing. Here, you can have up to 8 ounces and it's still a misdemeanor so you can't get more legal than that."
Besides the memorial to study taxing and reduced penalties, a House bill sponsored by Representative Emily Kane, a Democrat from Albuquerque, is also being heard in committee this week. Her bill, HB 465 would make possession a civil penalty for the first offense, a petty misdemeanor for a second, with no jail time for either.