A bill that would decriminalize marijuana possession in New Hampshire has passed through the House of Representatives and now it is up for review by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill would decriminalize possession of up to half an ounce of marijuana, which would go from being a criminal offense facing up to 3 years in prison and a $25,000 fine to being a civil citation with a fine starting at $100 for the first offense.
If passed, New Hampshire would be the last part of the New England area to decriminalize marijuana – but some people are saying not to hold your breath as the New Hampshire Senate has killed six different decriminalization bills prior to this one, all of which had already been approved by the House of Representatives.
“The New Hampshire Senate has killed six House-approved decriminalization bills since 2008, but it’s possible that the seventh time will be the charm, and that the ‘Live Free or Die’ state will become the final New England state to decriminalize marijuana possession by passing HB 1631 into law,” Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), told Marijuana.com in an interview.
There is certainly a lot of hope for this bill and also a lot of support throughout the state. Recent polls show that 62% of New Hampshire residents support full out legalization of marijuana – and this is in a state where medical marijuana was only legalized in 2013 and implemented only in the last year.
Of course, where you have widespread support you will also find outspoken opposition and this situation is no exception. Among the reasons that those opposed to decriminalization use, the most common is the fear that loosening marijuana laws could pose a threat of creating a larger number of addicts. (Even though we are constantly reminding people using this argument that opiate use has dropped in states with legal access to medical marijuana.)
If passed the first offense of possession of up to half an ounce would be fined at $100, a second offense would cost you $200 and every time thereafter would cost a maximum of $500. Even if that fine seems a bit steep after the third time around – but it’s still a massive improvement over prison time and $25,000 in fines (not to mention court fees).
With hope, the New Hampshire Senate will be a little more open minded this time around – realizing that they are spending millions of dollars on arrests, incarceration and court hearings that are over something as simple as a marijuana possession offense. If this law passed, police would be able to issue a citation – saving time and money and even making them money in the process.