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NM House OKs Bill To Lower Marijuana Penalties

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A proposal to lessen penalties for marijuana possession has passed the House.

The measure was approved Monday on a 37-33 vote and goes to the Senate.

The proposal would impose civil penalty fines on adults convicted a first time for having up to four ounces of marijuana. Jail time would be eliminated for possessing up to eight ounces.

Currently, it's a petty misdemeanor to have an ounce or less of marijuana. That can be punished with fines and 15 days in jail for a first possession. Possessing more than an ounce and up to a half pound is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

Supporters said reduced penalties would allow law enforcement to focus on more serious crimes.

Opponents said the proposal would wrongly send a message it's OK to use marijuana.