Albuquerque City Council to introduce new pot penalty law proposal

Posted at: 08/03/2014 11:25 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The push to decriminalize marijuana in Albuquerque is sparking up again, after an error at the City Clerk's office almost had it up in smoke.

That drama has now led to an Albuquerque city councilor introducing a proposition that would send the idea directly to voters.

At Monday's meeting, City Councilor Rey Garduno is expected to introduce a proposition to decriminalize marijuana possession penalties in the city.

If passed, voters will get to decide whether possessing a small amount of pot in Albuquerque should go from a crime, to little more than the cost of a parking ticket.

"All those voters should have a chance to vote," said ProgressNow New Mexico director Pat Davis in an interview with KOB Eyewitness News 4 on Wednesday.

ProgressNow led a group that collected signatures to get a ballot initiative that would ask voters if they wanted to decrease the penalty for a person caught with less than an ounce of pot to a $25 fine with no jail time.

Last week that effort took a big hit when interim-City Clerk Trina Gurule said she told the group they needed an incorrect number of signatures to get the proposition considered by Albuquerque's City Council for inclusion on November's ballot.

"It was just an oversight," said Gurule.

Gurule said she had mistakenly used the wrong formula to tell ProgressNow how many signatures they needed.

Instead of 11,203, they needed 14,000 signatures to get a question on November's ballot.

"It's probably inexcusable," said Councilman Don Harris.

Harris was blunt about his disappointment in the numbers snafu.

Now another councilman is taking the signature process right out of the equation.

Garduno on Monday will introduce a proposition to put the marijuana decriminalization question on the ballot in November.

"As far as putting it on the ballot without the signatures, yeah I think that's fine," said Albuquerque resident Russ Shangle.

Folks in Nob Hill on Sunday seemed to agree, the issue should be put to voters in November.

If Garduno's proposition passes during Monday's city council meeting, voters will decide.

"I work with adolescents and I've seen it create a lot of lost hope, a lot of lack of motivation," said Albuquerque resident Charlene McKeever.

McKeever says she strongly disagrees with full legalization, but says decriminalizing possession of small amounts of pot would be good for law enforcement priorities.

"I think our prisons are way too loaded with non-violent criminals with drug charges -- certainly marijuana," said McKeever.

The question is a hot issue in Albuquerque right now -- there is an on-going and spirited discussion about it on our Facebook, and

Join in, let us know what you think.

Calls to councilman Garduno for comment about his proposition were not returned, but we will be bringing you coverage of Monday's meeting.