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New Mexico considers following Oklahoma's example of lighter drug laws

Posted at 9:56 PM, Jan 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-29 22:56:40-05

SANTA FE, N.M. — Democratic state lawmakers in New Mexico are proposing to reduce drug possession offenses from felony to misdemeanor classification in an effort to decrease incarceration costs and more effectively treat addiction.

A bill introduced Tuesday by Democratic Sen. Jacob Candelaria of Albuquerque and Rep. Andrea Romero of Santa Fe would reclassify as a misdemeanor the possession of drugs including heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines and various psychedelics when there is no intent to distribute or traffic.

The initiative follows the example of reforms in states such as Oklahoma, Connecticut, Alaska and California.

Candelaria says felony penalties for possession of trace amounts of illegal drugs are dividing families and preventing access to gainful employment and public housing.

New Mexico Chief Public Defender Bennett Baur says prosecutors would retain discretion over the severity of charges.

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