In a close 5-4 vote, the Santa Fe City Council in New Mexico has become the most recent city to decriminalize marijuana, opting to charge fines and up to 15 days jail time instead of harsher penalties.
Decriminalization in Santa Fe is ahead of schedule. Originally slated for a vote in November based on the efforts of activists collecting around 11,000 signatures for the ballot measure, the city council pre-empted the wait and decided to directly modify the statute. The one dissenting voice came from Santa Fe mayor Javier Gonzales, who argued that the matter should have been put before the public.
“I have been in favor of decriminalization all along, I just wanted this to be on the November ballot in order for the citizens to make the decision,” Gonzales told Reuters. Santa Fe is home to 70,000, and aside from the signatures collected, polls showed that 70 percent of residents favored decriminalization.
More and more states and cities are following the examples set by Washington, Colorado, and now just recently on the municipal level, Washington, D.C., although of course it is still prohibited on the federal level.
New Mexico reform group Drug Policy Alliance was pleased at the results, though it was hoping for a larger victory. “It still is an historic win for us all,” State director Emily Kaltenbach said.
Now, criminal penalties are changing into civil citation penalties, accompanied by fines from between $50 and $100 dollars, in addition to possible jail time, but only up to 15 days. This applies to marijuana under one ounce (28 grams). The regulation will come into effect in 30 days.
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