Police officers in Santa Fe will undergo retraining to clarify what the state’s medical marijuana laws are and how to react in situations involving marijuana. In Santa Fe, possession of small amounts of marijuana are supposed to be low-priority to law enforcement. Enforcing the municipal law simultaneously with the state’s medical marijuana laws has brought on some controversy that city officials wish to clear up.
Possession of one ounce or less of marijuana and/or paraphernalia was decriminalized in 2014 in Santa Fe, according to Santa Fe New Mexican. It is a civil infraction that comes with a $25 fine. The local police have been issuing citations under the state statute, rather than the city statute. The state law says that possession of an ounce or less is a petty misdemeanor. However, it does carry a potential 15-day jail sentence and up to a $100 fine for a first offense.
Second offenses are subject to misdemeanor status, up to a $1,000 fine and up to 1 year in jail. City Counselor Jeff Maestas has informed Chief Patrick Gallagher that offers are to uphold city ordinance over state statute in this case.
In an email, Gallagher stated, “As per your recommendation, I have directed that additional training on the ordinance to be provided for all officers. This will take place over the next several months as staffing levels permit.”
Formal training, according to police spokesperson Greg Gurule, will begin the first week of December. Gurule said, “The department has been going through training during roll call. The process is explained on when citations should or shouldn’t be given. It’s ongoing.”
Maestas said, “I’ve asked that he add another element to the lesson plan for the training and that is informing them of the impact, particularly on young people, of an arrest or conviction in terms of getting public housing or public financial aid in college. I want them to be sensitive to the impacts of having an arrest and/or a conviction record.”
City Attorney Kelly Brennanmade said, “Police officers may still charge offenders under state law, but are afforded an additional opportunity to cite offenders for a civil infraction. In effect, the language adds another tool to a police officer’s toolbox.”