Pubdate: Mon, 12 Oct 2015
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Copyright: 2015 Albuquerque Journal
Author: Lisa Torraco
Note: Sen. Lisa Torraco Republican, Albuquerque


Decriminalizing Pot Will Have Little Effect on Crime, Courts or Corrections

On the heels of the U.S. Congress announcing its initiative of lower 
drug sentencing, Albuquerque Mayor R.J. Berry vetoed the city 
council's passage of decriminalization of marijuana.

In his veto message, the mayor was firm; it is bad public policy to 
enact city ordinances that preempt state and federal law.

I agree, this type of conflict in laws makes for legal chaos, and 
does not give citizens who want to be law abiding guidance on what is 
legal and illegal. It becomes confusing for law abiding citizens and 
sets the police up for civil rights lawsuits for either acting or 
failing to act against certain behaviors.

In summary, people deserve to live in order, not chaos, and citizens 
should have the laws that govern them be clear and consistent.

New FBI statistics confirm that Albuquerque's crime is on the rise.

By way of example, my home has been the victim of three property 
crimes in just three weeks. All three acts of vandalism occurred 
while my children and I were at home.

These acts of vandalism are not due to a lack of marijuana reform. 
The rise in property crime is just one symptom of a need for total 
criminal justice reform.

In Albuquerque alone there are still too many victims and too many 
people living in fear. Change is needed. But that reform should not 
take a piece-meal approach.

Albuquerque enacting laws that are in conflict with state and federal 
laws will create a patchwork of conflicting laws. That is not 
effective reform. The reform must begin at the highest levels in 
order to avoid the problem of some activities being criminal in some 
places and not in others.

Whether or not marijuana is decriminalized in the city of Albuquerque 
will not make a dent in the overall crime rate. Marijuana is not the problem.

Some say legalization of marijuana will divert money from the 
enforcement of low level marijuana offenders to the prosecution of 
other crimes. As a taxpayer, I am willing to pay what it takes to 
keep communities safe. But in return for my tax dollars, I want a 
system that works.

As a criminal law practitioner, I haven't seen a prosecution for 
possession of misdemeanor amounts of marijuana in years. Distribution 
of marijuana, yes, but not a prosecution for possession of less than 
8 ounces of marijuana.

Marijuana cases do not burden our judicial system or waste our tax 
dollars. Repeat offenders and violent offenders burden our system.

Some laws enhance safety, others have little effect on safety, and 
some may actively diminish public safety because law enforcement 
dollars are being spent inefficiently. Ultimately, the question 
underlying every tax dollar that is spent on fighting crime ought to 
be: Is this making the public safer?

Our tax dollars should be spent to enhance safety and that means 
keeping repeat violent offenders off the streets.

Unfortunately our system is allowing violent and repeat offenders 
back onto our streets. That is due to a combination of new court 
rules, bonding changes and ineffective prosecutors.

Property crime offenders and repeat violent offenders are a real and 
serious threat; they threaten our safety and our children. And that 
is where the criminal reform focus should be.

Our lawmakers must work toward enacting strong and consistent 
criminal statutes that have meaning and purpose. State lawmakers must 
step up to the plate and pass meaningful reform that our governor is 
willing to sign; and the police and prosecutors must have the ability 
to follow through with the cases.

I do not oppose the decriminalization of low levels of marijuana 
possession for adult use in their own homes but let's be honest: 
decriminalization of marijuana will have very little, if any, effect 
on crime, courts or corrections.

However, getting violent offenders off the streets will save money, 
reduce fears and protect citizens.

Now, that would be meaningful reform.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom