Marijuana Laws in New Mexico
There Are Still Paths to Jail for Marijuana Use in New Mexico Despite Legalizing Recreational Use of Marijuana in 2021
Even though New Mexico was one of the first states—if not the first—to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes, the state criminalized the recreational possession of marijuana until recently. New Mexico finally legalized recreational marijuana use in April of 2021. The new law allows anyone in New Mexico to use marijuana legally as of June 29, 2021.
However, the passage of this law does not mean you can possess any amount of marijuana you want, sell it, or drive while high. In fact, New Mexico still has very tough laws on the books relating to marijuana. You could wind up in jail if you are not careful. If you do find yourself under arrest for marijuana charges or driving while impaired, you need a tough, dedicated, and experienced New Mexico marijuana crime lawyer to give you the best chance of maintaining your freedom.
How Much Marijuana Can You Possess Under New Mexico Law?
The new law allows a person who is 21 or older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana when you are outside of your home. You can have more than that inside your home, provided that you remain discrete. Any amount of marijuana that exceeds two ounces of raw material, 800 milligrams of edible cannabis, or 16 grams of cannabis extract must remain out of public sight. Getting caught by police with an amount exceeding the legal limit in public is a misdemeanor. You face up to 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 for a misdemeanor conviction.
New Mexico law allows you to grow marijuana as well. Each person, aged 21 or older, may have six mature marijuana plants and six immature marijuana plants. These must be in your home and not in public view, including growing outside of your home. However, the maximum number of mature plants you can have at any one time, no matter how many people live with you, is 12. Exceeding that limit is a fourth-degree felony. The penalty for a fourth-degree felony in New Mexico is a maximum prison term of 18 months and a fine of up to $5,000.
On April 1, 2022, recreational cannabis sales began allowing adult-use customers to lawfully purchase two ounces of cannabis or its equivalent in other forms (e.g., edibles). But you should keep in mind that you cannot sell marijuana to anyone unless you have a license to distribute it.
Specifically, it is unlawful to distribute, sell, or gift marijuana without a mandatory license. What is gifting? It is a process by which some individuals or entities attempt to get around the licensing requirement to sell cannabis. The seller would “gift” marijuana to people while simultaneously charging them for another good or service with approximately the same value as the gifted cannabis. This ruse remains illegal.
Be Careful Smoking Marijuana in Public
In New Mexico, it remains unlawful to smoke marijuana in any public place, including state and county parks, sidewalks, private businesses, or any place where smoking tobacco is prohibited (e.g., outdoor dining on restaurant patios). Be mindful that local municipalities and government entities may impose further restrictions, so it is important to check local city and town ordinances before lighting up in public.
The Cannabis Regulation Act allows for designated marijuana consumption areas for recreational consumers. A cannabis consumption area is an area where cannabis products may be served and consumed. However, there are restrictions on secondhand smoke, and you must be a certain distance from schools or daycare centers. Smoking, vaping, or otherwise consuming marijuana outside of these designated areas remains unlawful.
Smoking outside of those designated areas is unlawful. The police can only assess a $50 fine for smoking in public. However, reserving your smoking for private property is a wise choice.
You could be arrested if a police officer stops you because you were smoking marijuana in public. The officer can detain you for a short time and run your name in the police database to see if you have a warrant. They will arrest you if you have an active warrant. The police will pat you down as part of their arrest procedures. They could find more contraband hidden on you during a pat frisk. You will face bigger problems than paying a $50 fine if that happens.
Restrictions on Cultivating
While it is now legal to cultivate your own marijuana plants, this, too, does not come without restrictions. Adults 21 and over can cultivate up to six mature and six immature marijuana plants within their residences. However, if caught cultivating more than the legal limit or outside of your residence, you can face steep consequences, including significant prison time and fines.
Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana Remains Unlawful
In New Mexico, it is unlawful for a person to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of any drug, including marijuana, to a degree that impairs their ability to drive. New Mexico law only requires impairment to the slightest degree.
A conviction for a first offense is a petty misdemeanor, according to New Mexico statutes 66-8-102. The maximum penalty is 90 days in jail and a fine of $500, plus other costs. The judge will most likely send you to DWI school and have you perform community service.
You could face a more significant penalty if you refuse to take a chemical test. Refusing a chemical test in New Mexico violates the state’s implied consent law. Under the DWI statute, refusing a chemical test results in an aggravated DWI charge. If you are guilty of aggravated DWI, the judge must send you to jail for 48 consecutive hours. In addition to losing your liberty you will have to pay fines, fees, perform community service, go to DWI school, and attend a screening exam for drug and alcohol dependence.
A Prior DWI Charge Is Another Path to Jail for Marijuana Use in New Mexico
Marijuana is also a path to jail if you have a prior DWI conviction. For the purposes of New Mexico’s DWI law, a deferred sentence (which is a favorable outcome in a lot of criminal cases) counts as a prior offense. A second DWI offense is a misdemeanor rather than a petty misdemeanor. This means that with a prior offense on your record you could go to jail for up to 364 days. Moreover, the judge must send you to jail for 96 consecutive hours.
The law allows for other sanctions besides jail. For a second offense, the judge could put you on probation for up to five years and order you to complete 48 hours of community service. You will also have to pay fines and fees. Lastly, the judge must sentence you to jail for at least seven days if you violate any terms of your probation.
Additional DWI Sanctions
Refusing a chemical test means that the state will suspend your driver’s license. The license suspension begins 20 days after the police notify you of your suspension. You have 10 days to request an appeal of the suspension. An administrative officer, and not a judge, will hear the appeal. The administrative officer is not concerned with guilt or innocence on the DWI charge. Instead, the administrative officer’s inquiry focuses on a few issues like whether the police had reasonable grounds to believe that you drove while intoxicated, whether the police placed you under arrest, and whether the officer properly advised you of your rights.
Marijuana Laws in New Mexico Remain Strict
So the bottom line is that you can still wind up serving time for marijuana-related offenses even though New Mexico has legalized marijuana. Having a conviction on your record could impact your life negatively in the long run. Do not allow this to happen to you.
Having a dedicated New Mexico criminal defense team by your side can give you the edge you need. With the help of aggressive defense strategies from the attorneys with the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices, you can increase your chances of avoiding a negative outcome. Call our office today at 505-200-2982. We can help you get off the path to jail for marijuana charges in New Mexico.