On Friday Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry said he vetoed five voter initiatives because he does not want to approve the decriminalization of marijuana or raise taxes in Albuquerque.
Berry exercised his veto authority on R-14-91 because of last-minute provisions added by the City Council that he said lack detail or circumvent state and federal law.
“This is a bill that has the potential to raise the taxes of the citizens of Albuquerque without any clear or concise plan as to how those tax resources will be spent,” Berry said in a video posted to YouTube. “It also has the potential to decriminalize an illegal drug in our city.”
Patrick Davis of ProgressNow NM, one of the organizations sponsoring the marijuana decriminalization campaign, said his group was disappointed to see the mayor deny citizens of Albuquerque the chance to express their opinions on the issue.
“We’re in this position because City Hall made a mistake, and the majority on our council gave (Berry) a chance to fix that forced error and honor the will of the voters,” Davis said. “Sadly, it looks like City Hall has chosen to play electoral turn-out politics instead of investing in the true democratic process.”
Berry said he was disheartened to have been put in a position to have to veto an entire bill because he did not agree with certain aspects of it.
“While I am supportive of the bill as originally drafted, and fully support sending many of the measures to voters for their consideration, I cannot in good conscience sign a bill that would impose a tax increase on the people of Albuquerque without any specific plan as to how the taxpayer resources would be spent or a bill that flies in the face of state and federal law as it pertains to illegal drugs,” Berry said.
According to the city charter, he did not have the ability to veto only portions of the resolution, and therefore decided to veto it in its entirety, he said.
He hopes that following this veto the City Council will work together to send him a bill he can send to voters for their consideration, he said.
Davis said city leaders too often bemoan the low voter turnouts in city elections, so to see the mayor turn away from the opportunity to allow voters to weigh in on how the city deals with crime and justice issues is especially discouraging.
On Aug. 18 the Albuquerque City Council voted 5-4 in favor of allowing a measure that would reduce marijuana penalties to be put on the ballot in November, following a petition initiated by ProgressNow NM that managed to collect over 16,000 signatures in support of the proposed changes.
This initiative sought to reduce penalties for anyone found in possession of up to an ounce of marijuana in the Albuquerque area to a civic penalty of $25, regardless of prior transgressions for the same offense.
On Thursday the city council of Santa Fe adopted a similar citizen-led ordinance advanced by the same campaign. Possession of small amounts of marijuana will be decriminalized in that city next month.
Tomas Lujan is a staff writer for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TomasVLujan.