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Andoni Garrote, J.D.

Deputy District Attorney

Effective June 29, 2021, marijuana has been legalized in the State of New Mexico, but what exactly does that mean? This is a summary of the legislation.

On April 12, 2021, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law New Mexico’s H.B. 2. the Cannabis Regulation Act. This Act regulates and legalizes the possession and use of cannabis for adults twenty-one years of age and older. Although marijuana has been legalized, this does not mean that anything goes; some activities are still regulated under the new law. Currently, people cannot legally smoke cannabis in public areas except in “cannabis consumption areas”.


A person twenty-one years of age or older who possesses between two and eight ounces of cannabis (For example, 2oz equals 56 grams or 56 pre-rolled joints), more than sixteen grams (2 oz.) of cannabis extract, or more than eight hundred milligrams of edible cannabis (think 80 gummies) can be charged with a misdemeanor. Furthermore, anyone in possession of over 8 oz. of cannabis, sixty-four grams of cannabis extract, or three thousand two hundred milligrams of edible cannabis can be charged with a fourth-degree felony.


Smoking cannabis in public areas is not allowed.

Although possessing and using marijuana is legal, the amount of marijuana, its extract and edibles an individual can have on their person in public, at one time, is still restricted.

What does this mean? It means that at home you can have more than two ounces of cannabis, its extracts and edibles, if they are not visible from a public place.

At home, you are allowed to grow six plants for personal use (12 per household total) without a license. Growing more than the allowed number in your home can lead to a penalty assessment. Additionally, having more than twelve cannabis plants is a fourth -degree felony. In short, individuals can grow marijuana in their home gardens if they do not grow more than the allowed number of plants at any one time.

The Act also establishes the regulation of the manufacturing of cannabis extract without a license. It is unlawful for a person to manufacture cannabis extract without a license unless the person produces and manufactures cannabis extract from homegrown cannabis using nonvolatile solvents, alcohol or carbon, or no solvents for personal use only. To do otherwise is a violation which can result in the charge of a fourth-degree felony.


Under the new law, a person eighteen years of age or older who intentionally sells cannabis products without a license can be charged with a misdemeanor. However, if an individual attempts to sell cannabis products from an area open to the public under the false pretense that they are operating as a licensed dispensary that would constitute a violation of the law resulting in the possibility of a fourth-degree felony charge. In other words, do not sell cannabis products if you are not in fact operating as a licensed dispenser.

Although cannabis is now legal, the actual commercial sale of marijuana is not yet in effect other than to those who possess medical cannabis cards. The Act states that the wide scale commercial sale of cannabis will take place no later than April 1, 2022. Something to point out is that the New Mexico legislature in addition to passing a law legalizing cannabis, also passed bill, S.B No.2 which deals with the expungement of criminal convictions and arrest records for those that had priors for certain cannabis offenses.


How will the Cannabis Regulation Act affect the way the 13th Judicial District Attorney’s Office prosecutes cases? The truth is that this office has always done its best to be mindful when it comes to cannabis charges and the impact criminalization has had on certain communities, especially people of color. Prosecution in this District will not look much different with the implementation of this new law because while the law is credited as legalizing cannabis, there are still some actions that are considered crimes which this office will continue to take seriously. For example, drug trafficking is a serious offense that affects the community. Frequently we see acts of violence stemming from the involvement in drugs and drug trafficking. However, despite this, our Office also recognizes and supports the need for a change in regulation when it comes to cannabis and the historically disproportionate ways in which racial and class biases were played out with the former criminalization and regulation of cannabis.

In this office, we have long recognized the impact that drugs can have on our community and renew our dedication to addressing the issues that drugs bring to it. We also renew our dedication to being mindful in the prosecution of crimes and recognizing the benefits of treatment and rehabilitation in hopes of helping someone turn their life around and become a contributing member of society. Ultimately, we recognize the need for this Act and dedicate ourselves to upholding the laws of our state just as we have always done.


On this day six years ago - which was Memorial Day, Officer Gregg "Nigel" Benner, an Air Force veteran, was killed in the line of duty. We are re-posting this Blog in his memory.


Memorial Day is a day set aside to remember and honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country. I want to dedicate this blog to the memory of a local hero who was executed in the streets of Rio Rancho on Memorial Day, May 25, 2015. Officer Gregg “Nigel” Benner was a veteran. He served his country honorably as a member of the United States Air Force, including several tours overseas. After being discharged, he continued his life of public service by joining the Rio Rancho Police Department.

Officer Benner was a beloved family man and proud member of his community. His selfless service to others was remarkable to all those who knew him. It is ironic that on Memorial Day, his family, friends, and loved ones remember and honor him — not for being killed by a foreign enemy while serving and protecting our country—they will remember him on this day as being gunned down by a career criminal, while serving and protecting our community.

The person who murdered Officer Benner (I will not publish his name to give him any more notoriety) was a career criminal when he entered Rio Rancho on that fateful day to continue a crime spree of armed robberies that had begun in Albuquerque and continued in Albuquerque after he left Officer Benner to bleed to death in the street. The tragedy of Officer Benner’s murder is amplified by the fact that his killer should never have been on the streets in the first place. He had already been incarcerated in the New Mexico State Penitentiary twice. He was on probation. Officer Benner’s murder sparked an outcry around the state and many called for stricter laws and sentences for repeat violent offenders. While some progress has been made in this regard, we still see far too many repeat violent offenders who migrate from larger communities like Albuquerque to the smaller communities in Cibola, Sandoval and Valencia Counties to commit atrocities against our citizens. Armed with the statistics of the alarming increase in violent crimes in our district, I will fight in the legislature to get a bigger slice of the resource pie, by dispelling the myth that our “rural” district doesn’t need as many crime fighting resources as the bigger metropolitan areas like Albuquerque.

While I am an advocate for diversion programs to assist first time non-violent offenders who wish to leave the criminal path and return to productive law abiding citizens, I have no sympathy for those who have been given multiple opportunities to correct their life styles and refuse to do so, ultimately harming and even destroying innocent lives. During the course of leading the prosecution team for Officer Benner’s killer, I became acutely aware of how profoundly the murder of a police officer affects the entire community. I have implemented a no-plea bargain policy for crimes of violence committed against peace officers during the course of their duties. My policy is to treat these crimes as if they were enumerated crimes, giving the harmed officers all of the rights afforded to other victims of crime in New Mexico. This means that none of these cases are dismissed or pled to lesser charges without consulting with the affected officer.

Additionally, as part of my monthly meeting with local law enforcement agency chiefs and supervisors, we developed a Chronic Offender Task Force wherein the police officers, probation and parole officers, and prosecutors collaborate to identify the worst of the worst in Sandoval County and coordinate strategies to investigate, apprehend, and prosecute these individuals in a concentrated effort to get them off of our streets for good. This will be implemented in all three counties once I am elected.

As your District Attorney, I will always stand behind the men and women who risk their lives every day for our safety. That is not to say I will rubber stamp everything they do. I will demand high quality and professional policing and investigation to ensure the best possible prosecution outcome. But, make no mistake. If anyone intentionally harms a police officer in the line of duty, I will not hesitate to prosecute to the full extent of the law. Imagine, if someone is willing to shoot and kill an armed police officer in broad daylight, they will not hesitate to kill any one of us or our family. Repeat violent offenders will not find a safe haven in Cibola, Sandoval, or Valencia County under my administration.

Rest In Peace with the Angels Nigel!

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” [John 15:13]


Employees of the 13th Judicial Attorney's Office participated in a month long raffle event for National Crime Victims' Week. Employees donated gift cards and non perishable food items for raffle tickets to win prizes. Over $400 dollars worth of gift cards were collected and are being donated to domestic violence emergency shelters in our district so that the shelters can purchase what is really needed. Several hundred pounds of non perishable food items were gathered as a part of the raffle and were donated to a number of families and organizations in need.

Employee winners of the raffle won, a day off, $100 in cash and a piece of custom silver jewelry made by one of our Deputy District Attorneys.

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