Good news if you're in New Mexico's capital: Holding a little baggy of pot will no longer land you in jail. On Wednesday night, the Santa Fe City Council decriminalized weed possession — which sounds a lot more exciting than it actually is. Basically, the council just revised a law that had previously classified holding less than an ounce of pot a misdemeanor. Now, getting caught with your Friday night fun-bag will get you nothing more than a fine of less than $25.
The council voted five to four in favor of the initiative, and, in spite of its being a relatively minor move, it's got big implications — Santa Fe is the first city in the state of New Mexico to decriminalize possessing the drug. It reflects growing support, both in the city and across the nation, for legalizing the drug. A 2013 poll found that 57 percent of New Mexicans would want to reduce penalties and get rid of jail time for those caught with small amounts of pot; across the U.S., 55 percent making weed legal altogether, CNN reports.
In fact, many of the legislators who voted against the move weren't doing so because they didn't support the idea. Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales, for example, actually approved of the measure, but thought that it was an issue the public should be able to vote on. "I have been in favor of decriminalization all along, I just wanted this to be on the November ballot in order for the citizens to make the decision," Reuters quotes Gonzales as saying.
According to the Santa Fe Reporter, the groups Drug Policy Action and ProgressNow NM had been gathering signatures all summer in order to get the decriminalization issue put to a vote in the November election. The groups got roughly 11,000 signatures — according to an internal poll, over 70 percent of Santa Fe residents supported the measure.
“We actually allowed for the petitioners to go out and, through hundreds of hours of civic engagement, get 11,000 signatures of people who are asking this council to put this measure to the vote,” Gonzales told the Santa Fe New Mexican. “They’ve asked for the vote. They should have the vote."
Regardless, in 30 days, catching people with weed will be the lowest law enforcement priority. And anyone found with less than an ounce will only have to pay a small fine — a far cry from what would have happened in the past, which would have involved paying $50 to
$100 and potentially spending over two weeks in jail. Still, as City Councilor Carmichael Dominguez said to the Santa Fe New Mexican:
I don’t think that by supporting this there’s going to be many more potheads.
Image: Getty Images, Jamie Lantzy/Flickr