Two Bills to Improve New Mexico

Press Release February 12, 2009
Media Contact

Reena Szczepanski at (505) 699-0798 or Marcela Diaz at (505) 670-9301

Two bills passed the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee today that will improve New Mexico’s criminal justice system. A wide range of community partners have come together to advocate for both pieces of legislation — a ban on bias-based profiling and a bill proposing treatment instead of incarceration for people with drug possession arrests.

Rep. Antonio Maestas (D-Albuquerque) is sponsoring HB 441, the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act, which proposes appropriate community-based treatment in lieu of incarceration for people with drug possession arrests, or for people with drug-related probation or parole violations.

“The so-called war on drugs has had tremendous negative and unintended consequences. What this country needs is a ‘Marshall Plan’ to confront drug abuse,” Maestas said. “The disincentive that the criminal justice system puts on drug use pales in comparison to the addictive qualities of these chemical narcotics. We need cost-efficient and more effective policies to make our communities safer and to rid our families of drug abuse.”

Advocates from around the state gathered in the committee room to provide testimony in support of the bill. “The consequences of drug addiction impact thousands of families in New Mexico,” said Reena Szczepanski, director of Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico. “HB 441 will not only make sure people with drug addictions receive true rehabilitation through treatment, but will also make our communities safer and save our state millions of dollars every year.” HB 441 passed the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee unanimously.

HB 428, the Prohibition of Profiling Practices Act, sponsored by Representative Cote (D-Cruces) also passed the Committee by a vote of 5 to 1. For the first time in state history, legislators voted for a bill to officially prohibit bias-based profiling in New Mexico. This first vote falls on the historic 100th Anniversary of founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The NM NAACP and 18 other local organizations, including Drug Policy Alliance NM, Somos Un Pueblo Unido, the NM Conference of Churches, Equality New Mexico, and Tewa Women United, support the legislation. Both bills now head to the House Judiciary Committee.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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