Lawmakers mull over marijuana possession legalization

Posted at: 11/29/2012 6:30 PM
Updated at: 11/29/2012 6:35 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Colorado did it, so did the state of Washington - will New Mexico be the next state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

The state legislature's Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee heard testimony at the state capitol Thursday about a bill that will be o the table when the legislature convenes in January.

A draft proposal that will be introduced then would impose no penalty for possession for an ounce or less of marijuana.

For possession of one to eight ounces there would be a civil - not criminal - monetary fine. Possession of any amount over eight ounces would be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.

"It improves public safety and it really improves lives," Emily Kaltenbach, of the Drug Policy Alliance, said. "It's about improving lives of adults who possess very tiny amounts of marijuana that otherwise would be arrested and incarcerated and that's a burden on families."

"The hugest problem is there's no prohibition about the distributing to individuals under 21," said Rep. Dennis Kintigh (R-Roswell) "Under this bill, an 18 year old can possess up to eight ounces and there's no real penalty. They can have literally hundred of pounds of marijuana and it's a misdemeanor."

Voters made the call on this issue in Colorado and Washington on Election Day. Here, the legislature will have the first crack at a proposal.

"People in Colorado have already shown that the general population are way ahead of the politicians," said Sen. Cisco McSorley (D-Albquerque). "The general population is sick and tired of this wasteful federal program we call the 'War on Drugs.'"

Lawmakers on the committee had a lot of questions about conflicts with federal law which still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 prohibited narcotic.

New Mexico and 17 other states have already legalized medical marijuana .