New Mexico takes first steps toward decriminalizing medical marijuana

approved measures that take steps to decriminalize marijuana and ensure that licensed medical marijuana providers do not have felony criminal records. State legislators have made clear that, despite these new bills, the state is not yet ready to legalize cannabis. “This is not legalization,” said Senate bill sponsor Sen. Joseph Cervantes. “This is decriminalization of less than one ounce.” Decriminalizing possession of less than one ounce of marijuana barely passed Senate scrutiny, with a vote of 21-20. It appears that the bill did not survive the House chopping block. That bill suggested tickets and $50 fines for possession of less than an ounce, and also lesser penalties — though still a misdemeanor charge — for possession of up to eight ounces of the drug. Slightly less controversial was the House Bill, which would require medical marijuana providers to pass criminal background checks. That bill passed the House 34-24, and would disqualify job applicants from being considered to work in medical marijuana dispensaries or for licensed producers if the applicant has previous drug-related felonies on their record. Ensuring this would require fingerprint background checks and criminal background checks to be set up through the Department of Health. “I think what we’re trying to do is take a preemptive step to make sure the program stays steady and there are no problems with it,” said sponsor Rep. Paul Pacheco. According to Pacheco, the state has 23 licensed providers registered in the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program, and 387 people are employed within the program.]]>

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