New Hampshire House Approves Bill to Remove Criminal Penalties for Marijuana Possession
Measure with bipartisan support would replace criminal penalties and potential jail time with a civil fine of up to $100 for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana
CONCORD — The New Hampshire House of Representatives approved a bill 215-92 on Wednesday that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The strong bipartisan support for the bill indicates the measure could withstand a veto from Gov. Maggie Hassan, who has expressed disapproval for such legislation despite broad public support. The bill will now go to the Senate, where it will be scheduled for a public hearing.
"This is a big step toward reducing the harms caused by marijuana prohibition," said Matt Simon, the Goffstown-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which is supporting the bill. "New Hampshire residents are sick and tired of seeing their tax dollars used to criminalize people for using a substance that is safer than alcohol. The Senate and Gov. Hassan should join the House and the majority of state voters in supporting this sensible reform."
HB 1625, sponsored by Rep. Adam Schroadter (R-Newmarket) and a bipartisan group of seven co-sponsors including Sen. Jeff Woodburn (D-Dalton), would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana punishable by a civil fine of up to $100. It would also make cultivation of up to six plants a Class A misdemeanor instead of a felony. Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000. New Hampshire is the only state in New England that treats simple marijuana possession as a criminal offense with the potential for jail time.
New Hampshire spends more than $6.5 million enforcing marijuana possession laws every year, according to a report released by the ACLU last year. Marijuana arrests account for more than half of all drug offenses in the Granite State.
"Every other state in New England has ended the needless and antiquated practice of criminalizing people for marijuana possession," Simon said. "It's time for New Hampshire to join them and adopt a more sensible marijuana policy."
According to a survey conducted in January 2013 by Public Policy Polling, 62% of New Hampshire voters support replacing the state's current criminal penalties for marijuana possession with a fine of up to $100 and no jail time. Only 27% said they were opposed. The full results of the poll are available at http://www.mpp.org/states/new-hampshire/2013NewHampshireResults.pdf.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have removed the threat of jail for possession of marijuana, including Colorado and Washington, where marijuana is now legal for adults 21 and older. Twelve other states are currently considering legislation to reduce marijuana penalties to only a fine.
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The Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s largest marijuana policy organization, has been responsible for changing most state-level marijuana laws since 2000. For more information, visit http://www.MarijuanaPolicy.org.