- Associated Press - Thursday, March 2, 2017

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Criminal penalties in New Mexico for possession of small amounts of marijuana would be replaced with a $50 fine under a bill approved by the state Senate.

The Senate voted Thursday to replace penalties including possible jail time for low-level marijuana possession violations with a purely monetary penalty.

Possession of a half-ounce or less of marijuana or drug paraphernalia would be handled much like a traffic ticket, with no court appearances unless the $50 fine is challenged.

Democratic Sen. Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces says the changes would free up resource for courts, prosecutors and defense attorneys to focus on pursuing violent crime cases amid a state budget crisis.

Eight Republicans and one Democrat voted against the bill. The proposal now moves to the House of Representatives.

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