SANTA FE (KRQE) – Santa Fe has become the first city in New Mexico to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.
The City Council voted Wednesday night to outright approve the ordinance even though the measure could have gone to voters.
Councilors passed the ordinance in a 5-4 vote last night.
The measure makes possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a civil violation – punishable by a fine of no more than $25. Before, it was a criminal violation – a misdemeanor.
Activists had gathered enough petition signatures to get the issue before voters, but the council hoped they could avoid the costs of a vote by approving it now.
Mayor Javier Gonzalez says he’s a supporter of decriminalization.
He says he’d rather see police go after those who commit violent crimes and those trying to bring drugs into the community, but he voted against the measure Wednesday night.
“There were hundreds of Santa Feans who spent the last three months gathering signatures from individuals across our city who wanted a vote to take place on this and I wanted to continue to support that civic engagement and allow for a vote,” said Gonzalez.
Councilors in Albuquerque passed a measure to send the issue to voters. If the mayor wants to veto it, he has to decide by Friday.
Representatives with the city say he’s seriously considering a veto because it conflicts with the state’s statute on pot.
It’ll be up to Santa Fe police to decide how to charge someone – either by the state or city statute.
One councilor who voted against the measure questioned if that would set up officers for profiling accusations.