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New Mexico Decriminalizes Marijuana

Law signed after full legalization effort stalls in state Senate

A marijuana plant is seen at the Compassionate Care Foundation's grow house, in Egg Harbor Township, N.JMarijuana New Jersey, Egg Harbor Township, USA - 22 Mar 2019

Under a new law, possession of less than a half an ounce of marijuana will result in just a $50 fine.

Julio Cortez/AP/REX/Shutterstock

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed legislation that will decriminalize marijuana, significantly reducing possession penalties, Albuquerque’s KRQE reports.

The law, which makes New Mexico the 24th state to decriminalize marijuana, will take effect July 1st. Under the new act, possession of less than half an ounce of weed will be considered a civil citation, rather than a criminal conviction, and will come with a $50 fine instead of jail time. Penalties for possessing drug paraphernalia will also be reduced. 

The new measure, however, does not legalize the recreational use of marijuana or the sale of it. Grisham supports legalization and the New Mexico legislature seemed poised to pass a recreational marijuana bill last month, but after narrowly wining approval in the House, the bill stalled in the Senate. After the bill faltered, Grisham vowed to make legalization part of her 2020 agenda.

Despite not passing, the New Mexico legalization bill was unique in that it would have established a network of cannabis dispensaries owned and operated by the state. Under this framework, the state would license private growers and manufacturers, then the state’s retail stores would accept them on consignment, meaning the manufacturers and growers would be paid after the products sold. Though no other legal marijuana market in the United States operates this way, it would have been similar to the model that several states, including Utah and New Hampshire, use for selling alcohol.

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