Mayor Tim Keller signed a bill Thursday decriminalizing the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana in the city.

The legislation, passed by city councilors last week, replaces the criminal penalty of fines and jail time for such possession with a $25 civil fine.

Authorities warned that marijuana possession remains a criminal offense under state and federal law.

“Removing the criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana will free up precious resources for law enforcement, who have plenty on their plate already,” Keller said in a statement. “We’re facing real challenges in Albuquerque and this is a step in the right direction to allow our officers the flexibility to better prioritize their time tackling violent crime and property crime in our city.”

APD Spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said that 177 police reports were filed for marijuana possession in 2016 and 120 reports in 2017.

Police Chief Michael Geier said, “This new legislation allows officers to focus on violent crime, property crime and drunk driving. It’s important for the public to be aware that this does not change state or federal law and officers will still have a choice to pursue criminal charges when appropriate.” [Read more at Albuquerque Journal]

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