- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 22, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The Albuquerque City Council has voted in favor of decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, but that action will likely face opposition from Mayor Richard Berry, who plans to veto the legislation.

The council voted 5-4 along party lines Monday in favor of making it a civil offense to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. They also adopted a resolution declaring marijuana a low enforcement priority for police.

But Berry has cited conflicts with state and federal law as reasons to veto the measure.

The legislation, sponsored by councilors Isaac Benton and Rey Garduno, reflects what 60 percent of Bernalillo County voters expressed support for last year.

“The community wants to make sure we don’t criminalize youth, especially, but anyone with a small amount of marijuana,” Garduno said.

Councilors Don Harris and Dan Lewis, both Republicans, said the city should not change marijuana laws and that debate over marijuana penalties should happen at the state or federal level. Councilors Trudy Jones and Brad Winter, also Republicans, supported Harris and Lewis in their opposition.

The legislation received backing from Benton, Garduno, Ken Sanchez, Diane Gibson and Klarissa Pena, all Democrats.

“We’re incarcerating people who really aren’t a threat to society,” Sanchez said.

The city ordinance would remove the possibility of jail time for possessing an ounce or less of marijuana from the city’s criminal code, making it a civil offense. Violators would have to pay a $25 fine, unless the person has a medical prescription for the marijuana.

If enacted, the law would still be subject to discretion from Albuquerque police officers who could cite people under state law, which carries penalties of up to 15 days in jail and fines up to $100.

The council would not have enough votes to override a veto by the mayor unless an opponent changes their position.


Information from: Albuquerque Journal, https://www.abqjournal.com

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