Pending the signature of Governor Chris Sununu, New Hampshire will finally decriminalize the possession of marijuana.
After the state Senate and House both passed bills to drastically reduce the probability cannabis can lead to jail time in New Hampshire, many residents no longer have to say the state motto “Live Free or Die” sarcastically. Language in the bill states that no one may be arrested by law enforcement for simply possessing small, personal amounts of cannabis.
I want to thank the legislature for passing common sense marijuana reform. I look forward to signing House Bill 640 into law.
— Chris Sununu (@GovChrisSununu) May 11, 2017
Currently in New Hampshire, marijuana possession of any quantity is punishable by up to one year in jail. If House Bill 640 becomes law, anyone over the age of 18 who is found guilty of possessing up to three-quarters of an ounce of cannabis or five grams of hash will be subject to a $100 penalty — even on the second offense. The fine escalates to $300 on the third offense, and a fourth will net the offender a Class B misdemeanor. The revenue derived from the possession penalties will help fund the state’s fight against substance abuse.
The Granite State Senate had been rock-steady in their resistance to reform, rejecting House-approved decriminalization bills on three separate occasions over the last ten years.
Not all were thrilled with the bill’s passing, including Senate President Chuck Morse, who said, “I believe it sends mixed signals as a state in the middle of a very serious heroin crisis with nearly 500 deaths a year that we are working hard every day to reduce. I continue to stand with law enforcement against decriminalization and will work to ensure the safety of our communities against drugs.”
Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn stressed, “We need common sense to prevail. Times, they are a-changing. In our country, we are moving away from punitive prohibition.”
With decriminalization all but finalized in New Hampshire, the entire New England region is poised to be a safe zone from arrest for low-level marijuana possession.
New England is a major economic hub in the Northeast that attracts significant tourism revenue with its historic cities and gorgeous Fall foliage, but adding another specific kind of “tree” to its fiscal repertoire could really change the entire legal marijuana landscape in America — not to mention further stress the issue for nearby New York.
As Connecticut and Rhode Island have both made concerted efforts to push serious reform, pressure will now be on New Hampshire to take steps toward ending cannabis prohibition in the state once and for all.