Taking to YouTube to let voters watch him veto a popular resolution, Albuquerque Mayor RJ Berry today exercised an expected veto, stopping, for the time being, the citizen-led ballot measure to reduce marijuana penalties in New Mexico’s largest city.
“City leaders all too often bemoan the low level of participation in city elections, so we’re disappointed to see the mayor turn away from the opportunity to let city voters have a say in how our city deals with crime and justice issues,” says Patrick Davis of ProgressNowNM, one of the organizations sponsoring the campaign to reduce marijuana penalties in ABQ.
“We’re in this position because city hall made a mistake, and the majority on our council gave him a chance to fix that forced error and honor the will of the voters. Sadly, it looks like city hall has chosen to play electoral turn-out politics instead of investing in the true democratic process.”
The mayor’s sudden embrace of YouTube has the added bonus of avoiding a public press conference where he would have been asked tough questions, like why he stood silent as city hall’s mistake cancelled out the petition signatures of thousands of voters, or whether he believes, like Susana Martinez, that keeping pot off the ballot keeps younger voters away from the polls in November.
After organizers with ProgressNowNM and Drug Policy Action of NM concluded a 60-day petition drive process, city hall announced that it had miscalculated the threshold required for placing the citizen-proposed ordinance to reduce marijuana penalties on the ballot.
City Councilor Rey Garduno, joined by 4 others, passed a substitute resolution calling for voters to weigh in on the question and direct councilors to enact reduced penalties legislation if approved by the voters.
Earlier this week, the City 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.
In his online veto message, Berry discusses his opposition to a proposed tax question sent to voters that would have generated millions of dollars for behavioral health services, and his opposition to decriminalizing an “illegal drug.” Notably, Berry never uses the word “marijuana.” Message gurus suggest this is because “marijuana” polls really well.