Pubdate: Thu, 01 Oct 2015
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Copyright: 2015 Albuquerque Journal
Author: Dan McKay


Legislation Would Have Applied to Small Amounts of Marijuana

Citing his oath of office, Mayor Richard Berry vetoed legislation 
Wednesday that sought to decriminalize the possession of small 
amounts of marijuana.

He also rejected a companion proposal - to make marijuana a low 
priority for law enforcement.

Berry, a Republican, said the oath of office he took included a 
promise to uphold the law.

"I just have hard time signing any legislation that preempts state 
and federal law, whether it's marijuana or any other issue," Berry 
told reporters Wednesday.

The City Council doesn't appear to have enough votes to override the 
veto. The marijuana legislation won approval on a 5-4 vote last week, 
along party lines, with Democrats in the majority. It takes six of 
nine votes to override a veto.

Emily Kaltenbach, state director for the advocacy group Drug Policy 
Alliance, said she and other supporters will continue the fight, both 
at the state level and by trying to get an opposing city councilor to 
change positions.

Councilors Isaac Benton and Rey Garduno, both Democrats, sponsored 
the legislation, which called for making it a civil offense, not a 
criminal violation, under city law to possess an ounce or less of marijuana.

Officers still would have had discretion, however, to issue citations 
under state law - the penalties for which can include up to 15 days 
in jail and fines up to $100 as a criminal petty misdemeanor.

Marijuana decriminalization was popular among Bernalillo County 
voters last year.

About 60 percent expressed support for decriminalizing possession of 
small amounts of marijuana.

The vote was in response to a nonbinding question on the 
general-election ballot.

Benton and Garduno said it's clear the community supports a reduction 
in marijuana penalties.

Furthermore, they say, a criminal record for marijuana possession can 
harm someone's ability to get a job or housing.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom