Public Safety & Justice

Santa Fe Decriminalizes Pot Possession

August 28, 2014

Santa Fe made history Wednesday by becoming the first city in New Mexico to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Hoping to avoid the costs of taking the issue before voters and the uncertainty of the question even making the November general election ballot, the City Council voted 5-4 to adopt a citizen initiative outright.

“I don’t think that by supporting this there’s going to be many more potheads,” said City Councilor Carmichael Dominguez. He voted in favor of adopting the ordinance, which calls for making possession of an ounce or less of marijuana and marijuana-associated paraphernalia civil infractions punishable by a fine of no more than $25.

Dominguez said he was leaning toward putting the question before voters, calling the ability to vote the most democratic process. But he said he’s had the “unpleasant experience” of working in corrections and seeing the negative effects it can have on “really good people.”

“The real reason I’m in support of this is because I’ve seen what incarceration does on a firsthand level,” he said.

The other councilors who voted to adopt the ordinance were Patti Bushee, Peter Ives, Signe Lindell and Joseph Maestas. Mayor Javier Gonzales and councilors Bill Dimas, Ron Trujillo and Chris Rivera cast the dissenting votes.

The ordinance, which goes into effect five days after it’s published, also would make possession of small amounts of marijuana “a lowest law enforcement priority” for Santa Fe police.

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