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Albuquerque mayor vetoes pot decriminalization ballot proposal

Updated: 08/29/2014 5:36 PM | Created: 08/29/2014 2:07 PM
By: Elizabeth Reed, KOB.com and Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry vetoed a ballot measure to decriminalize marijuana possession penalties on Friday.

In a YouTube video, Berry said, "It is disappointing that I have been put into a position to have to veto an entire bill that includes a number of provisions that I support simply because certain members of the City Council voted to include last minute provisions that lack detail and/or circumvent state and federal law."

The Albuquerque City Council agreed to put the measure on the November ballot last week.

The proposal would have made possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a civil infraction punishable by a fine of no more than $25. Voters would have decided on the measure in the Nov. 4 general election.

"While I am supportive of the bill as originally drafted, and fully support sending many of the measures to voters for their consideration, I cannot in good conscience sign a bill that would impose a tax increase on the people of Albuquerque without any specific plan as to how the taxpayer resources would be spent or a bill that flies in the face of state and federal law as it pertains to illegal drugs," Berry said.

Patrick Davis of ProgressNowNM, one of the organizations that organized the original petition to get marijuana possession penalties on the ballot, said he was disappointed in the mayor's decision.

"City leaders all too often bemoan the low level of participation in city elections, so we're disappointed to see the mayor turn away from the opportunity to let city voters have a saying how our city deals with crime and justice issues," Davis said.

The city council can still seek to override the mayor's veto at their meeting next week. They would need a 6-3 vote. The City Council vote was 5 to 4 – not enough votes to over-ride the veto.

"This is the first time in the history of the city of Albuquerque that a mayor has vetoed an election resolution," said Council President Ken Sanchez. "It deprives the voters of Albuquerque of that opportunity."

Supporters of the Albuquerque proposal vow they'll be back to fight again, and some state lawmakers are already drafting decriminalization bills for next January's session of the state legislature.



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