Mayor signs pot decriminalization bill | KOB 4
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Mayor signs pot decriminalization bill

J.R. Oppenheim
April 12, 2018 05:16 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Possessing small amounts of marijuana in Albuquerque will now lead to a fine instead of harsher punishment.

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Mayor Tim Keller on Thursday signed a City Council-approved ordinance to decriminalize the drug in the city limits. Under the new ordinance, someone found with an ounce or less of marijuana will receive a $25 fine.

Councilors Pat Davis and Isaac Benton sponsored the bill, and the City Council passed the measure earlier this month. Both Keller Albuquerque Police Chief Mike Geier said the ordinance allows officers to focus on more serious crime.

"Removing the criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana will free up precious resources for law enforcement, who have plenty on their plate already," Keller said. "We're facing real challenges in Albuquerque and this is a step in the right direction to allow our officers the flexibility to better prioritize their time tackling violent crime and property crime in our city."

State and federal law recognize marijuana possession as a crime, and Geier said officers can still pursue criminal charges when they deem it appropriate.

"This new legislation allows officers to focus on violent crime, property crime and drunk driving," Geier said.

Alicia Manzano, the communications director for Keller's office, said the bill was sent to the city clerk to be published either this weekend or early next week. The ordinance will then go into effect five days later.

Though proponents say the marijuana decriminalization will free up police resources, others are still worried. Jennifer Weiss-Burke, the executive director of the Serenity Mesa Youth Recovery Center, told KOB that the center often treats substance abusers who started using marijuana.

"I just think we've gotten so complacent when it comes to marijuana that we just think, 'Oh, marijuana's nothing. It's not addictive. It's not harmful. It can't hurt you. People use it for medical issues,'" she said. "That's true in some respects, but you also have to think there's a lot of people that are using it for the wrong reasons."

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J.R. Oppenheim

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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