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New Mexico Governor Vetoes Bills To Stop Incarcerating People For Certain Drug Offenses

“By taking away this tool, we risk losing an important incentive for defendants to get the help they need.”

By Austin Fisher, Source NM

New Mexico has for decades led the nation around harm reduction policies that try to address substance use disorders without incarcerating people. Two different but related proposals to strengthen those protections were passed by the legislature but vetoed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D).

Last week, Lujan Grisham vetoed two sentencing reform bills which could have stopped New Mexico from incarcerating people for simple drug possession, potentially saving millions of dollars on jail time that the state’s public defenders and civil rights attorneys say could be better spent on treatment and harm reduction.

Emily Kaltenbach is the senior director of criminal legal and policing reform at the Drug Policy Alliance. Their group works to decriminalize drug possession altogether. She’s extremely disappointed in the governor’s vetoes and concerned about the continued negative impact the criminal legal system has on people struggling with problematic drug use.

“Our criminal system should not be the gatekeeper to treatment,” Kaltenbach said. “Both of these pieces of legislation were a first step in really treating addiction as a health issue and not

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