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New Mexico considers lower penalties for pot possession

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SANTA FE (AP) — A New Mexico state senator who is running for governor has proposed replacing criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana with a $50 fine.

Democratic Sen. Joseph Cervantes of Las Cruces introduced a bill that would provide a purely monetary penalty for low-level marijuana violations. The Senate approved a similar bill last year that never received a vote in the House. The changes would free up resource for courts, prosecutors and defense attorneys.

Three Democratic candidates for governor have voiced support for legalizing recreational marijuana, while GOP candidate and Congressman Steve Pearce stands opposed. New Mexico regulates the use of cannabis for a long list of medical conditions.

Outgoing GOP Gov. Susana Martinez has been a firm opponent of legalizing recreational marijuana.