Santa Fe and Albuquerque pot penalties become issue in governor's race

Updated: 08/20/2014 6:00 PM | Created: 08/20/2014 5:54 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Voters in Albuquerque and Santa Fe may get to decide in November whether to reduce penalties for small amounts of marijuana – and now that question has become an issue in the race for governor of New Mexico.

The pot issue shows a definite split between Republican Gov. Susana Martinez and her Democratic challenger, state Attorney General Gary King. On this issue, neither one of them is blowing smoke – they'll tell you exactly what they think. Martinez does not support reducing penalties at all.

"No, I do not," Martinez said in an interview after an event in Bernalillo this week. "I think that it is illegal. It is against the law federally, and therefore, it is also against the law in New Mexico. I think it is the way it should be and the penalties are appropriate."

King politely disagrees.

"I personally believe that we should decriminalize marijuana in New Mexico, to the extent that it's inappropriate to be putting people in prison for small amounts of marijuana," the Attorney General said.

This week, the Santa Fe city clerk ruled that petition-signers seeking reduced penalties for pot possession had gathered enough valid voter signatures to put the proposal on the ballot. The Albuquerque City Council voted Monday night to let city voters decide whether pot penalties should be reduced. The mayor could still veto that bill.

"The penalty for possession of marijuana is state law," Martinez said. "No city or county can reduce the penalties for marijuana, the possession or use of it, beyond that which is already state law. It would take the legislature to do that."

"I think the cities are leading the way," King said. "That's appropriate to have happen in New Mexico, and I support their authority to do so."

Both candidates agree that New Mexico should not follow the lead of Colorado and Washington with statewide legalization of marijuana, in direct contradiction of federal law.

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