New Hampshire finally joins the other New England states, becoming the 22nd state in the country, in not jailing people simply for possessing marijuana. Earlier this year, lawmakers passed a bill decriminalizing the possession of small quantities of weed, and this bill officially came into effect on Saturday. Nobody will go to prison for carrying pot in their pocket anymore.
According to the New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, Matt Simon from Manchester, “The governor and Legislature both deserve a lot of credit for moving the state forward with this commonsense reform. Unlike his predecessors, who opposed similar proposals, Governor Sununu appears to understand that ‘Live Free or Die’ is more than just a motto on a license plate.”
Simon unwaveringly gave praise where due, “A lot of credit also goes to the House, which has been supporting decriminalization bills since 2008. It was refreshing to see the Senate finally come to an agreement with the House on this issue in 2017.” He said, “This is a big step toward a more sensible marijuana policy for New Hampshire.”
Introduced in the House of Representatives by Republican Renny Cushing and a group of bipartisan co-sponsors, House Bill 640 garnered overwhelming support back in February. Amended by the Senate and approved on May 11, the Senate version then passed by a voice note in the House on June 1. On July 18, Governor Sununu officially put a signature to it.
Currently, carrying up to three-quarters of an ounce of weed on your person is a criminal misdemeanor, and penalties for it include a maximum fine of $2,000 and up to a full year in jail. This legislation reduces it to a civil violation, which carries a smaller $100 penalty fine for first and second offenses. Third offenses increase that fine to $300, but the fourth violation within three years of the first one may result in class B misdemeanor charges, and police will no longer arrest anyone or send offenders to jail.
In a statement, Simon said, “There is no good reason to continue arresting and prosecuting people for marijuana possession. Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and Granite Staters are the reader to see it treated that way. A very strong majority of state residents support ending marijuana prohibition altogether.”
He also said that “New Hampshire lawmakers should continue to follow their constituents’ lead on this issue. Every state in New England is either implementing or strongly considering legislation to regulate marijuana for adult use. It is time for the Legislature to develop a realistic marijuana prohibition exit strategy for New Hampshire.”
Just last month, the University of New Hampshire Survey Center released the results of a Granite State Poll conducted recently. According to this poll, at least 68 percent of adults in New Hampshire support the legalization of cannabis. That is more than two-thirds of the state’s adult population.