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Albuquerque Decriminalizes Cannabis Possession

Albuquerque Decriminalizes Cannabis Possession

Albuquerque Mayor-elect Tim Keller, center, speaks outside of City Hall, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, during a press conference about the future of the police department in Albuquerque, N.M. Keller named a team that will oversee the transition of law enforcement in New Mexico's largest city as he prepares to take office. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras)

Possession of small amounts of marijuana will no longer be a criminal offense in New Mexico’s largest city.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller signed legislation Thursday amending the city’s criminal code, making low-level cannabis possession of an ounce (28 grams) or less without a valid medical marijuana referral a citable offense.

Instead of jail time and a criminal penalty fee, police would issue a $25 fine.

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Council members Pat Davis and Isaac Benton sponsored the ordinance, which narrowly passed the City Council on a 5–4 vote
. City officials say the new law will go into effect next week.

Albuquerque joins a growing list of U.S. municipalities that have similar measures in place, including Santa Fe.

City officials say law enforcement should be able to spend more time on violent crimes instead of minor marijuana offenses.

”This new legislation allows officers to focus on violent crime, property crime and drunk driving,” city Police Chief Mike Geier said in a statement.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.