Santa Fe, NM - Representative Emily Kane (D- Bernalillo-15) introduced House Bill 465 to reduce penalties for adults who are charged with possession of small amounts of marijuana. The proposed legislation reduces the penalty structure for possession of up to 4 ounces to a civil penalty with increasing fines, while removing the potential for jail time for any amount up to 8 ounces.
Rep. Kane believes that through good public policy, it is possible to more appropriately use resources and help law enforcement focus on more serious crimes. Removing the threat of jail time allows for penalization, not criminalization, of non-violent offenders. This allows offenders to keep their jobs or continue to attend school after committing minor infractions. This change in penalties will also help with the serious issue of overcrowding in New Mexico correctional facilities.
Rep. Kane makes it clear: this bill does not decriminalize marijuana. Rather, it aims to adjust the penalties for possession of marijuana to a more appropriate level. She hopes this can change the debate on use of marijuana from a criminal issue to a health issue.
"In all my time working on public safety I have responded to hundreds, if not thousands, of 911 calls. More often than not, these calls involve the abuse of alcohol or other illicit drugs. I do not recall a single time where I have responded to a 911 call relating solely to the use of marijuana," said Rep. Kane. "I think the time has come to treat marijuana as a public health issue, not a criminal issue. Our state wastes entirely too much money prosecuting these types of arrests. Treating marijuana use as a criminal issue overcrowds our prisons and wastes valuable law enforcement time and resources."
The Marijuana Arrest Research Program estimates that New Mexico spends upwards of $5 million every year simply arresting persons for possessing small amounts of marijuana and processing their cases. This does not include costs spent on prosecuting and incarcerating offenders. Rep. Kane believes these resources can be better spent on other more pressing issues facing New Mexico.
Rep. Kane expects bipartisan support for her bill, which was co-sponsored by the majority of the Democrat caucus, including Speaker Ken Martinez, House Majority Leader Rick Miera and
House Majority Whip Antonio "Moe" Maestas. HB 465 has been referred to the House Consumer Affairs and Judiciary Committees.
You can read House Bill 465 by clicking here.