06/28/2013 4:21PM

Tougher New Mexico drug penalties go into effect July 1

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The New Mexico legislature has cleared the way for potential criminal charges to be filed against licensees found to have administered Class 1 or Class 2 drugs to horses either working or racing at the state’s tracks. The provision was among the updates made to the New Mexico Horse Racing Act, according to Vince Mares, agency director of the New Mexico Racing Commission. The changes go into effect on Monday,

The state legislature also passed a bill that provides funding for enhanced drug testing.

“We were very excited that those two bills passed,” said Mares.

As part of Senate Bill 444, which updates the Horse Racing Act, Class  1 and Class 2 drug violations must now be reported to the district attorney by the racing commission staff. By informing district attorneys’ offices in the counties where the violations take place, the way is paved for possible criminal charges, said Mares. The act also says that a person “administering, attempting to administer or conspiring with others to administer” such a class of drug to a racehorse “is guilty of a fourth-degree felony.”

“Basically, this is taking it up a notch,” said Mares.

In addition, the Horse Racing Act lists use of an electrical device by a rider in a workout or race, as well as sponging – or obstructing a horse’s airways – as fourth-degree felonies. The bill also increases the maximum fine the commission can levy for violations from $10,000 to $100,000 or loss of purse, whichever is greater.