New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill Wednesday to reduce the penalties for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
The bill makes possession of less than an ounce of marijuana a petty misdemeanor instead of a criminal charge. However, possession of larger amounts could still result in a felony charge. The reduced penalty would result in a $50 fine and no jail time which traditionally had long-term impacts on peoples ability to secure housing and employment.
The Legislative Finance Committee also conducted a fiscal impact report on these reduced penalties and found that they would drastically improve the judicial economy. The report indicated that criminal offenses typically include arraignment and additional hearings, which can drain the court of its limited resources. The workloads of prosecutors and public defenders would also be lessened with a change to a misdemeanor offense.
The new bill will go into effect July 1 and makes New Mexico the twenty-fourth state to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana possession to include no jail time.