New Mexico just advanced its cannabis laws. The state’s governor recently signed into law a new bill that effectively decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Although weed remains illegal in New Mexico, this could be a step toward more liberal policies. In particular, it could help pave the way toward eventually making recreational weed legal in the state.
New Mexico’s New Policy
New Mexico SB 323, known by the title Decrease Marijuana Penalties, passed the House and the Senate in March.
From there, it was sent to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. And she officially signed it into law on April 3.
With the governor’s signature, the new bill will become a fully functioning law on July 1, 2019.
The bill will change a number of important aspects of New Mexico’s cannabis laws.
Most notably, possession of marijuana will no longer be a criminal offense.
Instead, people caught with less than a half-ounce of cannabis will face only a civil citation. More specifically, possession of marijuana will now carry only a $50 fine.
These changes will also apply to people caught with drug paraphernalia.
Prior to these changes, it was possible for people caught with weed to face criminal charges resulting in jail time.
However, under the new bill, possession of large amounts of marijuana could still result in criminal charges. In fact, it will still be possible to face felony charges if a person is found in possession of very large amounts of marijuana.
Cannabis in New Mexico
New Mexico’s new decriminalization bill represents the next step in the state’s evolution of cannabis laws.
The first big change in the state came back in 2007. That year, New Mexico became the twelfth state to legalize medical marijuana.
Initially, the state allowed patients with only a very limited range of health conditions to use medical marijuana. But in later years, lawmakers have expanded the list of qualifying conditions.
Additionally, the state’s medical marijuana program has been expanded to include various provisions for cultivation.
More recently, there has been increased activity on the recreational front.
Last month, the New Mexico House of Representatives voted on House Bill 356, more commonly called the Cannabis Regulation Act.
The original legalization was quickly replaced by what some lawmakers called a “compromised floor substitute.” This alternate version of the policy ended up passing the House by a narrow 36-34.
The version of the bill that passed the House called for a number of big changes.
For starters, it would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use. Similarly, it would have allowed for a system of state-run retail stores.
After clearing the House, the bill was moved into the New Mexico Senate.
Unfortunately for cannabis advocates, the bill ended up stalling in the Senate Finance Committee.
However, Gov. Grisham said she wants to make legalization a key consideration in upcoming legislative sessions.