Beginning on Monday, July 1, the personal possession of small amounts of marijuana in New Mexico will no longer be classified as a criminal offense.
The new law reduces first-time penalties for the possession of up to one-half ounce of cannabis from a criminal misdemeanor — punishable by up to 15 days in jail — to a ‘penalty assessment,’ punishable by a $50 fine. Subsequent offenses, however, remain punishable by the possibility of jail time.
“This is a win for consumers and activists continuing to fight and reform the state’s marijuana laws,” says NORML State Policies Coordinator Carly Wolf. “The criminalization of patients and consumers is a failed public policy, and there is finally a more sensible alternative in place. New Mexicans, a disproportionate number of whom are black and brown, have faced arbitrary discrimination and stigmatization for far too long.”
Police in New Mexico made over 3,600 marijuana possession arrests in 2016.
Legislation in Hawaii to decriminalize low-level marijuana possession offenses is awaiting action from the Governor, while Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign legalization legislation into law this week.