ABQ Reports: Keller Signs Pot Decriminalization Bill

Keller Signs Pot Decriminalization Bill

April 12, 2018
By Dennis Domrzalski

Mayor Tim Keller on Thursday signed a bill that makes it a $25 fine to possess an ounce or less of marijuana in the city.

Here’s the mayor’s news release on the signing:

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller today signed a bill passed by City Council to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana under municipal law.

The bill, sponsored by City Councilors Pat Davis and Isaac Benton, was passed by City Council on Monday, April 2, 2018. The legislation replaces the City’s current criminal penalty of fines and jail time for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana with a $25 civil fine. Marijuana possession remains a criminal offense under state and federal law.

“Removing the criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana will free up precious resources for law enforcement, who have plenty on their plate already,” stated Mayor Keller. “We’re facing real challenges in Albuquerque and this is a step in the right direction to allow our officers the flexibility to better prioritize their time tackling violent crime and property crime in our city.”

Chief of Police Michael Geier added, “This new legislation allows officers to focus on violent crime, property crime and drunk driving. It’s important for the public to be aware that this does not change state or federal law and officers will still have a choice to pursue criminal charges when appropriate.”


APD Police Officers have a wide discretion in making arrests and they normally do not make arrests for small amounts of marijuana preferring to dodge the bullets from guns being shot at them during the commission of one of the many violent felonies that go on in Albuquerque every day.

During the last legislative session State Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque) once again attempted to legalize the sale and use of marijuana in New Mexico by introducing legislation to put it on the ballot as a constitutional amendment for voter approval, and the legislation went nowhere.

In any representative form of government, people are elected to make the best decisions they can based on the facts and needs of their constituents, presuming those decisions and votes are really within their authority.

The legalization and decriminalization of marijuana needs to be addressed by the New Mexico legislature or the US Congress and not the Albuquerque City Council.

The truth is, our war on drugs has been a miserable failure in this country, especially when it comes to pot, and that is coming from someone who started his legal career prosecuting narcotics cases.

Legalize, regulate, control sales and tax recreational marijuana by comprehensive legislation is what needs to be done.

The candidates for Governor, Congress and those running for the legislature should be asked where they stand on legalization of marijuana.

Healthy debate on comprehensive legislation during this election year could be a precursor to drafting viable legislation and adopted by the 2019 New Mexico legislature.

The city council’s ordinance is mostly symbolic, and it will be business as usual by APD.

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Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.