House passes bill to reduce pot penalties

Posted at: 03/11/2013 6:48 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The state House of Representatives has passed a bill that would reduce penalties for marijuana possession.

The vote was close - 37 to 33 on the proposal to eliminate jail time for first offense possession of up to four ounces of pot. There would be a civil fine, like a traffic ticket, and no crime on your record.

Currently, possession of up to one ounce is a petty misdemeanor, punishable by a fine and up to 15 days in jail.

Backers of the bill say it would free up police officers to cover more serious crimes.

Opponents argued that it sends the wrong message to kids that smoking pot is okay.

"I never thought of this as an end game, that we're going to get this bill all the way through this time," said bill sponsor Rep. Emily Kane, an Albuquerque Democrat. "I really thought that just having the conversation was where we needed to start."

The bill now goes to the state Senate. If it passes there, it faces a veto from Gov. Susana Martinez, a longtime former district attorney who opposes drug legalization and decriminalization.