There is a small but growing trend toward the decriminalization of marijuana. Albuquerque and New Mexico, despite taking a lead on medical marijuana, lag behind the trend toward decriminalization.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has indicated that legalization needs to be studied closely. Massachusetts voters approved a referendum decriminalizing marijuana. Denver has passed a law making adult marijuana possession the lowest law enforcement priority.
Other countries have gone much further. Portugal decriminalized all drug possession. The feared spike in drug use never materialized. Several Latin American countries are following the lead of Portugal including Brazil and Colombia, who have called on other countries in the region to follow suit.
Surprisingly, there has been no reaction from the United States government when in years past these trends would have been met with severe diplomatic reactions.
The American people seem to accept marijuana use. Polls have shown that over 50% believe that marijuana should be legalized, taxed and regulated. These folks have it right.
This approach would have numerous positive effects. First, it would bring tax dollars all but bankrupt governments at the Federal, State and local levels. Second, it would reduce the power, wealth and influence of organized crime which is a very serious threat to United States national security. Third, it would save State and local governments huge budgetary waste expended on enforcement, prosecution and punishment of this completely harmless crime. Finally, it would stop ruining the lives of those caught up in these senseless policies.
Despite these trends, and New Mexico‘s forward looking vision on medical marijuana, the State and Albuquerque in particular continue to take a hard stand on marijuana possession.
Marijuana is still considered a controlled substance. Possession of marijuana is classified as possession of a controlled substance. Possession of less than 8 ounces is a misdemeanor, possession of more than 8 ounces is a felony.
Even a charge (without a conviction) for possession of a controlled substance can have devastating consequences to a defendant. A conviction can have many serious consequences beyond even the penal consequences.
New Mexico, and Albuquerque should take the lead here as they have in other areas such as immigration and medical marijuana. The current enforcement policies are barbaric to the those unfortunate enough to be caught in the system, and neglectful of responsibilities to our taxpayers.