Santa Fe on Wednesday became the latest U.S. city to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, with lawmakers in the New Mexico capital voting to change local statutes rather than put the issue to a public ballot in November. The new regulation, which takes effect in 30 days, reduces criminal penalties that range from fines of between $50 to $100 and up to 15 days in jail into an as yet undetermined civil citation penalty.
Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales voted against the measure, arguing that it should be decided at the ballot box. "While I've been a clear and vocal support of decriminalization, I believed this was an issue that should be brought before the voters for an up or down vote," Gonzales said.
By approving the matter outright, the council hoped to avoid the costs of a vote and the uncertainty of the question making the November ballot. The City Clerk's office estimated the cost of putting the measure on the ballot to be as much as $80,000.
According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, 18 states have decriminalized marijuana possession and treat the infraction like a traffic ticket. Colorado and Washington state have legalized possession of pot.