Santa Fe City Council passes measure to reduce marijuana penalties

Posted at: 08/27/2014 9:32 PM
Updated at: 08/27/2014 10:25 PM
By: Blair Miller,

SANTA FE -- The Santa Fe City Council passed an ordinance Wednesday night that will effectively decriminalize possession of under an ounce of marijuana, and also avoids putting the issue on the ballot for voters to decide in November.

The ordinance, which the City Council passed in a 5-4 vote, would make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a civil infraction punishable by a fine of no more than $25, but it's unclear when the ordinance will go into effect.

The Councilors who voted in the majority said "the will of the people was clear from the high number of signatures collected and that it was smart to change a policy that had ruined so many lives."

The mayor was part of those voting in the minority, and said in a news release he "believed this was an issue that should be brought before the voters for an up or down vote."

"Either way, I'm proud of the City of Santa Fe tonight for continuing to be a leader in forward-thinking policy that improves the lives of citizens," Mayor Gonzales continued.

The Santa Fe County Commission approved a similar measure Tuesday afternoon.

On August 18, the city clerk in Santa Fe said activists have submitted enough valid voter signatures to force a public vote on decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.

Possession of an ounce or less of marijuana in Santa Fe had been punished as a petty misdemeanor for the first offense, punishable by a $50 to $100 fine and up to 15 days in jail.