New Mexico Decriminalizes Adult Use Cannabis

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A rendering of a green highway sign with marijuana leaf for Santa Fe

Santa Fe, New Mexico — The Midwestern state of New Mexico is poised to become the 24th to decriminalize cannabis.

Local Albuquerque station KRQE reports that “Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation last week that will decrease penalties for cannabis possession from a criminal to civil violation. Individuals caught with less than half an ounce of cannabis will face a $50 fine, instead of jail or prison time. Reduced penalties for being caught with drug paraphernalia (accessories) will also go into effect. The new law pertaining to cannabis reform goes into effect on July 1, 2019.”

Marijuana decriminalization is not the same as full legalization. Under decriminalization, criminal penalties linked to marijuana, such as jail time for minimal possession is no longer a factor. However, civil penalties such as a fine remain in place. Selling marijuana remains against the law.

With full legalization, civil and criminal penalties for marijuana possession are no longer a factor, and the sale of cannabis is typically allowed within licensed dispensaries. Illicit sales of cannabis would remain illegal.

Some people favor decriminalization in lieu of legalization because it reduces the drain on law enforcement’s time, energy and resources when pursuing low-level cannabis crimes. Whereas instating fines for cannabis possession generates income for the state’s coffers, which in theory can then be allocated to pursue more detrimental criminal activity or support state infrastructure.

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