Legislators seek to reform drug laws


New Mexico lawmakers have tried to tackle drug habit and lethal overdoses for many years. Throughout earlier years, lawmakers from each main events tried to handle opiate epidemics within the state by way of each elevated penalties and extra progressive measures. 

This yr, with not solely a Democratic majority and a Democratic governor, but in addition a brand new incoming class of  extra progressive Democrats within the Senate, the state might see motion on payments that will decrease penalties for drug possession in addition to public well being minded approaches to habit. 

Rep. Debbie Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, instructed NM Political Report that she plans to sponsor a invoice that will permit for protected and authorized locations to make use of unlawful narcotics, also known as protected injection websites. The thought, Armstrong mentioned, is that folks would have the ability to convey already obtained narcotics to a delegated location the place there can be medical professionals available to help within the occasion of an overdose and supply sources for restoration. 

“It is smart to me, for public security, for the well being and security of the person and a unique try and try to get of us assist,” Armstrong mentioned. 

Armstrong, who has persistently sponsored healthcare associated payments throughout her six years within the Legislature, mentioned protected consumption websites would hopefully deal with issues in lots of communities relating to used needles scattered round public areas like parks and playgrounds. However, she mentioned, it will additionally deal with over-criminalization of substance habit. 

“It’s positively a healthcare difficulty,” Armstrong mentioned. “However it’s a prison justice reform as properly, as a result of this can be a protected place with no risk of being arrested. It’s protected from that perspective, nevertheless it’s a chance for us to ship healthcare and intervention for somebody who’s battling habit.”

Emily Kaltenbach, the New Mexico director of the Drug Coverage Alliance, mentioned she is working with Armstrong to go the invoice and mentioned New Mexico has an opportunity to be a “progressive chief” by passing such laws. The thought hasn’t occurred at a state stage but. 

City leaders in Philadelphia, up till just lately, had pushed for a protected consumption space, however a federal court effectively halted that plan. San Francisco officers are working with California state leaders to allow safe consumption sites.

Kaltenbach acknowledged attainable federal roadblocks for New Mexico, however mentioned she’s nonetheless hopeful.

“There are some federal obstacles, nevertheless I’m extra assured that transferring into a brand new administration that they received’t be as acute,” Kaltenbach mentioned.

Kaltenbach added that these kinds of websites can present “wrap-around companies” and would deal with habit like a well being difficulty as a substitute of a prison one. 

“If somebody have been to expertise an overdose, somebody can be there to manage Naloxone, if it was an opiate,” Kaltenbach mentioned. “There’s going to be schooling about security. Quite a lot of communities have fentanyl strips the place they will check substances, for impurities or for fentanyl for different issues.”

New Mexico has an extended historical past with opiate habit, and like different components of the U.S., has just lately seen the unfavorable impacts of fentanyl, a prescription opiate that’s rather more potent than morphine. 

European international locations and Canada have had protected injection websites for years and whereas they fluctuate, some research have shown a decrease in emergency journeys for overdoses and decrease opioid-related deaths. 

However like all laws, Armstrong’s invoice is just not assured to go. 

She mentioned she’s unsure how the Legislature will react to the invoice, however that the legislative course of can take years generally. 

“You recognize, a variety of new concepts take a variety of time, and take a number of instances,” Armstrong mentioned. “So whether or not it’ll go this time or not, I don’t know.”

However, Armstrong mentioned, a lot of her fellow lawmakers confirmed curiosity throughout shows on the topic throughout the interim. 

“I count on it would get a great dialogue,” she mentioned. “Whether or not it will get by way of this time or not, I feel it’s an vital transfer.”

Decreasing penalties

Whereas Armstrong will likely be pushing for a healthcare method to habit within the state Home of Representatives, a state senator will likely be pushing to decrease penalties for easy possession, additionally within the identify of well being care. 

Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, mentioned he plans to sponsor a invoice that will defelonize the possession of small quantities of all medication within the state. 

Possession of small quantities of hashish, with no medical authorization has already been decriminalized, however possession of medication like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines is a fourth diploma felony in New Mexico and comes with an 18-month sentence in jail.  

“What that has resulted in, is the incarceration of nonviolent offenders and placing individuals in jail and making them felons, not as a result of they’re violent criminals who’re roaming the streets trying to do hurt to their neighbors, however as a result of they’ve a well being drawback, which is a chemical habit,” Candelaria mentioned. 

Candelaria mentioned the invoice would decrease the penalty for possessing unlawful medication from a felony to a misdemeanor and an individual might nonetheless face fines and a brief period of time in jail, however they’d not dwell with a felony conviction on their document. 

“These aren’t people who find themselves a part of some huge cartel operation or committing acts of violence,” Candelaria mentioned. 

Kaltenbach mentioned the Drug Coverage Alliance is supporting Candelaria’s invoice, though the group would finally wish to sometime see no prison prices for easy drug possession.  

“We predict that is the best step proper now for New Mexico,” Kaltenbach mentioned. “We have to eradicate prison penalties for possession to start with, however proper now, taking possession from a felony to a misdemeanor is big, and would have a really constructive affect on New Mexico households and the prison justice system basically.”


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