After years of legislation being rejected before it ever made it out of the Senate, the state of New Hampshire has finally, officially, decriminalized possession of an ounce or less of cannabis. This move comes after the Senate was finally willing to consider a House bill which significantly drops the penalty for being caught with small amounts of marijuana. The reason for the change of heart is most likely due to the fact that nearby Massachusetts and Maine have both passed recreational cannabis laws in last year’s election, with sales expected to begin in 2018.
“[T]he House…has been passing decriminalization bills since 2008,” noted Matt Simon — New England Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “It is refreshing to see the Senate finally come to an agreement with the House on this issue….The governor deserves credit for his steadfast support of this common-sense reform. Unlike his predecessors, who opposed similar proposals, Gov. Sununu appears to understand that ‘Live Free or Die’ is more than just a motto on a license plate.”
Previously, if you were caught in the “Live Free or Die” state with an ounce or less of cannabis, then you would be subject to a misdemeanor charge and a fine of up to $2,000. Now that Governor Sununu has signed the House Bill into law, those caught with an ounce or less will only be fined $100 on the first offense. For a second offense, the fine goes up to $200 – and if you’re caught a third time within one year then you will be fined $300. Four times or more and you would finally be charged with a Class B misdemeanor.
“Every state in New England is either implementing or strongly considering legislation to regulate marijuana for adult use,” Simon added. “It is time for the Legislature to develop a realistic marijuana prohibition exit strategy for New Hampshire.”
It took nearly 10 years of proposals from the House to finally decriminalize cannabis, but it’s good to see that New Hampshire lawmakers have finally decided to stop trying to make prohibition work. Being the last state in New England to abolish the criminalization of small amounts of cannabis means they have some catching up to do – especially if other New England states make the move to legalize cannabis through legislature, like Vermont who almost managed to do so just this year.