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Trying to change cannabis policy requires both concerted effort and a careful approach. What works in one state with one group of voters will absolutely fail in another state. Thankfully, there are many different ways for activists to change corrupt and destructive cannabis prohibition laws.
In some states, broad medical cannabis laws have provided access. In other states, recreational legalization has made safe access even easier, which is incredibly beneficial for those without good insurance. Another type of cannabis law reform is decriminalization.
People tend to spend less time on decriminalization that on comprehensive legalization because it has many significant flaws. Decriminalization means changing cannabis offenses from a criminal offense to a civil offense. That’s the difference between getting arrested and winding up with a ticket in your hand.
In the case of New Mexico, decriminalization was a stopgap measure after a legalization bill failed to garner enough support to pass. Under the new law, cannabis possession will become a civil infraction as of July 1st. Anyone caught with less than half an ounce of cannabis will received a ticket for a $50 fine. Obviously, any kind of legal reform that reduces the number of people facing penalties for cannabis is positive. However, decriminalization really doesn’t solve any of the issues caused by prohibition and the War on Drugs.
For example, decriminalization does not create a system in which there is a legal or acceptable way to cultivate or distribute cannabis and cannabis products. That means that anyone who gets caught selling cannabis or producing it will face serious criminal charges. It also means that the state of New Mexico misses out on the opportunity for the impressive tax revenue generated through the legal and regulated sale of cannabis in other states.
It will be a good thing for everyone in New Mexico when the state official e adopt its three criminalization policy over the summer. However, it’s important that activists not allow this little progress to dissuade them from pursuing more sweeping and cannabis law reform in New Mexico.
For previous Ladybud articles about New Mexico, click here.