Possession of small amounts of cannabis is no longer a criminal offense under Albuquerque city code. Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller signed city council legislation Thursday making cannabis possession a civil infraction. City councilors approved the measure earlier this month on a 5-4 vote.
In a statement, Keller said the new ordinance will allow city police officers to focus on combating other crimes.
“We’re facing real challenges in Albuquerque and this is a step in the right direction to allow our officers the flexibility to better prioritize their time tackling violent crime and property crime in our city,” Keller said.
Albuquerque Chief of Police Michael Geier also said in a statement that police can focus on other crimes, but noted police can still charge people under state or federal criminal laws.
“It’s important for the public to be aware that this does not change state or federal law and officers will still have a choice to pursue criminal charges when appropriate,” Geier said.
The city of Santa Fe passed a similar ordinance in 2014, but a Santa Fe Reporter investigation found that many officers were still charging people under criminal state law, which allows for jail time.
Under the old city ordinance, possession of an ounce or less of cannabis could have resulted in a $50 fine and up to 15 days in jail. Repeat offenses could have resulted in a $500 fine and up to 90 days in jail. Now possession of of an ounce or less of cannabis can result in a $25 fine.
Efforts to reduce penalties for small possession of marijuana at the statewide level have failed in recent years.