August 17, 2016

Report: Santa Fe cops still arresting for pot possession

Despite a city ordinance that calls for the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, Santa Fe police officers are still arresting people and sending them to jail for possession.

hand in jailThat’s according to a review by the Santa Fe Reporter, nearly two years after the city council passed the ordinance and 15 months after the ordinance was implemented. The officers are instead using the state law, which still calls for arrests and jail time, to make the arrests.

The decriminalization calls for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana to be punishable by a $25 fine; the state law, however calls for up to a $100 fine for a first-time offender and up to 15 days in jail. A second offense, again for one ounce or less, could cost the offender $1,000 and up to one year in jail.

From the Reporter:

The 36 people jailed in the last two years for marijuana lean on the young side, with a median age of 24. The arrests tend to occur on the Southside. About 70 percent happened southwest of St. Michael’s Drive, mostly during traffic stops along Cerrillos Road.

According to lawyers who work in magistrate court, the arrests more often affect people of color. It is difficult to verify the claim, however, since neither jail booking sheets nor police reports maintain consistent records on race as it pertains to Latinos. Most of the arrestees also meet income limits to qualify for a public defender.

While Santa Fe’s police chief said police issued 13 citations, which do not involve arrests and are akin to traffic tickets, they could only provide 8 to the Reporter.

Santa Fe Police Department Chief Patrick Gallagher told the paper many of the officers in the department don’t agree with decriminalization.

“Some of our officers are adamantly opposed to it,” Gallagher says. “Look, we all have our personal opinions, but that shouldn’t change the way we enforce the law.”

The effort to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana statewide haven’t gathered much traction. It passed the state House in 2013, but died in a Senate committee that same year.

Gov. Susana Martinez opposes any such changes to the state law.

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry vetoed a proposal to put marijuana legalization to the ballot.

A proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize recreational marijuana in the state made it to the Senate floor this year, but failed to pass.