New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham recently signed a bill that will decriminalize cannabis in the state. Once the bill goes into effect on July, 1 cannabis possession will be considered a civil offense rather than a criminal offense. KRQE reports that under the new law, less than half an ounce of cannabis possession will now cost a person a $50 fine rather than jail time.
If everything goes according to plan, New Mexico is to become the 24th state to decriminalize cannabis. Having said that, decriminalization is not to be confused with legalization. Even though cannabis is decriminalized in the state, recreational sales of cannabis still remains illegal and possessing more than the allotted amount of cannabis will result in felony charges.
However, this new bill is a step towards recreational cannabis legalization, which by the way, Grisham is a strong advocate for and wants to achieve during her tenure as governor.
A fiscal impact report predict that the new law “could have a positive fiscal impact on the courts, prosecutors, and public defenders; workloads could be lessened by reducing the charges of possession of marijuana up to one-half ounce and use or possession of drug paraphernalia to penalty assessments.”
Cannabis legalization supporters are celebrating this small yet important milestone in New Mexico. “New Mexico just took an important step forward toward more humane marijuana policies,” tweeted Marijuana Policy Project’s state of policies director Karen O’Keefe. “It will no longer brand cannabis consumers criminals or threaten them with jail time for simple possession.” But at the same time, O’Keefe is upset that cannabis prohibition still remains in the state. “But it’s a shame that only one piece of the war on marijuana is ending in New Mexico this year.”
A proposal to legalize and control the production and sales of cannabis in New Mexico advanced through the Senate committee but was ultimately rejected at a legislative session last month. “Voters support regulating, taxing, and legalizing cannabis for adult-use, and the Senate should have heeded their call,” O’Keefe stated.
Legalization of cannabis was a part of Grisham’s election campaign last year and she said she will continue to push for it. She also said that her legislation memo for next legislative session will include strategies to end cannabis ban in New Mexico.