In 2014, voters in Santa Fe, New Mexico passed an initiative to eliminate criminal penalties associated with possessing up to one ounce of cannabis. It appears though that the city’s law enforcement didn’t get the message.
According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the Santa Fe Police Department is being forced into a training that is aimed at educating them how to properly handle individuals with small amounts of cannabis. This comes after many police officials have continued to arrest people with less than one ounce of cannabis.
City Councilman Joseph Maesta has singled out Police Chief Patrick Gallagher in an effort to stop his officers from targeting people under the 2014 ordinance, which lowered the penalty to a civil infraction punishable by a $25 fine. Gallagher finally agreed to put his police force through additional training.
“As per your recommendation, I have directed that additional training on the ordinance be provided for all officers,” Gallagher said in an email to Maesta. “This will take place over the next several months as staffing levels permit.”
The training will take place this December, and it will see that the entire Santa Fe Police Department learn what is, and more importantly, what isn’t a chargeable occurrence. A police spokesperson stated that officers are also now being told during their pre-shift meetings when it is proper to make an arrest.
Maesta hopes that officers will understand the impact this could have on the community.
“I’ve asked that he add another element to the lesson plan for the training and that is informing them on the impact, particularly on young people, of an arrest or conviction in terms of getting public housing or public financial aid in college,” Maestas said. “I want them to be sensitive to the impacts of having an arrest and or a conviction record.”
All of this stemmed from a Santa Fe Reporter investigation that found that an average of one person a month was arrested for possessing less than an ounce of cannabis.