April 2, 2018

ABQ City Council votes to send cannabis decriminalization to Keller’s desk

The City of Albuquerque is one step closer to reducing the penalties for the possession of small amounts of cannabis. City councilors voted 5-4 Monday night to replace the current ordinance that allows for possible jail time for cannabis possession with a $25 fine.

Now it’s up to Mayor Tim Keller to make it official.

Under current city law, possession of an ounce or less of cannabis could result in a $50 fine and up to 15 days in jail for a first offense and a possible $500 fine and up to 90 days in jail for repeat offenses.Councilor Cynthia Borrego was the only Democrat to vote against the proposal. She explained that there is “not really any empirical evidence” showing a correlation between decreased penalties and reduced crime rates. She added that she supports medical cannabis programs and has “friends that do medical marijuana,” but that she’s also worried that unregulated cannabis may be “laced” with other toxic substances.

Supporters of the measure far outnumbered opponents during the public comment period of the meeting. About a dozen people, including advocates from New Mexico’s American Civil Liberties Union and Drug Policy Alliance, urged councilors to vote for the measure. One person spoke against the legislation, arguing police can use criminal drug charges as a “tool” to hold suspects while furthering an investigation.

This isn’t the first time the council approved this type of ordinance. But it is the first time this specific, politically left-leaning council has sent such a measure to the progressive Keller. During his campaign Keller also said he would be willing to sign decriminalization legislation.