Push to lower penalties for marijuana possession in Albuquerque

Created: 07/27/2014 9:39 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness New 4

There's a push in Albuquerque to lower the penalties for marijuana possession. There are even radio ads now looking to gain support to get that on the ballot. Left-leaning political group "Progress Now New Mexico" is also hitting the streets to get signatures.

The group says their petitions to lower the penalties for carrying marijuana are getting a lot of traction. They say it isn’t about the weed as much as it is about jail overpopulation.

 “We've actually turned in 10,000 signatures to the city of Albuquerque clerk,” Marsha Garcia.

Marsha Garcia is leading the charge to make marijuana possession less of a crime in Albuquerque.

“It will keep responsible adults out of the criminal system,” she said.

Right now, carrying an ounce or less of pot can land you in a sticky situation.  A first offense is a fine of up to $50 and potential for two weeks in jail, but the second offense is much tougher. The second offense is up to $500 and up to 90 days in jail.

Garcia says volunteers have collected more than 11,000 signatures to get a measure on November’s ballot that would make even repeat offenses punishable simply by a fine of $25.

“It would be a small ticket, like a parking ticket,” said Garcia.

Folks in Nob Hill Sunday seemed to largely get behind the idea. Though there were some notes of caution. Some worried the downside would be increased activity.

KOB’s Caleb James spoke to Albuquerque city counselor Klarissa Pena Sunday. She says if the group has the valid signatures needed, she'd consider voting to put the measure on a ballot, but she says decriminalization laws in other states have sometimes been challenged, so the council will have to be critical of the language to make sure it is constitutional.

The signatures collected by the group to create similar legislation in Santa Fe are currently under review by the clerk there to make sure they are all valid.

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