Santa Fe City Council decided to directly adopt the ordinance instead of having it go on the ballot.

Thanks to a successful ballot initiative campaign by Drug Policy Action and ProgressNow NM the city of Santa Fe has decriminalized marijuana. It is the first city in New Mexico to do so.

The original plan was to collect enough signatures to get their decriminalization measure on the November ballot. Yet after enough valid signatures were verified the Santa Fe City Council decided to directly adopt the ordinance instead of having it go on the ballot where it was expected to easily win. From the Santa Fe Reporter:

In a surprise move, Santa Fe City Council voted to decriminalized marijuana Wednesday night.

The resolution, passed narrowly on a 5-4 vote, changes the city’s penalties for possessing one ounce of marijuana or less and marijuana-related paraphernalia from a criminal misdemeanor punishable by a $50-$100 fine and up to 15 days in prison to a civil infraction and a $25 fee. It also instructs the city’s police officers to treat possession of small amounts of marijuana as the lowest law enforcement priority.

The change will go into effect in a few days.

The victory is a bittersweet for the campaign which was hoping a big public vote in support for marijuana decriminalization could add momentum to similar changes throughout the state. Still, this is a big policy win for the people of New Mexico.

Hopefully more local legislators around the county will start realizing the people actual want marijuana reform and won’t need a ballot initiative hanging over their heads to get them to act. The initiative is a very valuable tool for the marijuana reform movement but expensive, time consuming and limited. In much of the country they aren’t allowed.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy

Santa Fe downtown montage by SteveoJ under Creative Commons license