Recreational marijuana is decriminalized – but not legalized – in New Hampshire. There are still consequences for being caught with small amounts of marijuana, but they are less severe than they used to be.
Since September 16, 2017, possession of ¾ of an ounce or less of the drug amounts to a violation, like a speeding ticket, instead of a criminal offense that would go onto someone's record.
If you were caught with a small quantity of weed before 2017, you may be able to get your criminal charges annulled.
What are New Hampshire’s marijuana laws?
Marijuana is not legal in New Hampshire, regardless of the quantity you possess. The sole exception is legally acquired medical marijuana.
For these types and quantities of the drug:
- Up to 3/4 of an ounce of marijuana
- Up to 5 grams of hashish
- Marijuana-infused products containing up to 300 mg of THC, in childproof containers (but only if you're over 21)
...the following rules apply:
- Possession is no longer a criminal offense. Instead, it's a violation, like a parking ticket. You will probably get a $100 fine and won't go on your criminal record.
- You can get the fine waived for your first offense if you complete a substance abuse assessment within 60 days of getting convicted.
- You can't get arrested, unless you refuse to identify yourself or are breaking another law.
- If you're under 18, you could still get taken into custody and could go to juvenile court.
- Getting caught more than three times within a three-year period can lead to criminal charges, subject to a heftier fine.
However, serious criminal penalties, including jail time, still apply to possession of larger quantities of marijuana, growing marijuana, or to getting caught selling the drug.
How is decriminalization different from medicinal marijuana?
New Hampshire’s medicinal marijuana law, which was passed in 2013, legalizes the use of cannabis for certain prescribed medical purposes.
- Those using marijuana for legal medicinal purposes must have a qualifying condition, such as cancer, glaucoma, or HIV.
- Medicinal marijuana users must apply for a DHHS-issued ID card and can only acquire the drug from a licensed dispensary.
Federal marijuana law
The US federal government considers cannabis a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance, a classification which states that there is “no currently accepted medical use” for the drug. There have been extensive legal challenges to this classification, but thus far, none have been successful.
- So far as the federal government is concerned, possession and distribution of marijuana are prohibited under the Controlled Substances Act.
- Federal law trumps state law in cases where the two conflict.
- In 2014, Congress passed a measure that prohibits the Drug Enforcement Administration from using federal funds to impede state medical marijuana laws. However, this provision does not apply to decriminalization statutes. This means people possessing marijuana have no strict guarantee of immunity from federal prosecution regardless of state laws.
"NH was right to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana."
- Marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol, which is a regulated, legal substance. Its potential risks do not justify such strict punishments for use or possession.
- Decriminalization will free up law enforcement resources to tackle more serious crimes, such the state’s growing opioid problem.
- Stricter marijuana laws make it harder for those who are convicted to find employment and gain further education. This places a greater burden on public assistance programs.
- Decriminalization may reduce overcrowding in NH prisons.
- Marijuana laws may be enforced unfairly along racial lines. African Americans are far more likely to be arrested – and receive harsher penalties– for marijuana possession. New Hampshire’s decriminalization of the drug might help address this disparity.
"Marijuana should not be decriminalized in NH."
- Decriminalization could increase usage of the drug, particularly among vulnerable youth populations.
- Marijuana is a dangerous drug that has been linked to depression, immune suppression, poor concentration, apathy, and reduced motivation.
- Marijuana is a “gateway drug” that could lead to greater rates of abuse of more dangerous substances, such as cocaine and heroin.
- Marijuana is not taxable under decriminalization statutes. Only fully legalizing it would make the drug a potential revenue source.
- Decriminalizing marijuana instead of legalizing it does not address the more serious problems associated with the drug, such as the role it plays in funding gangs and criminal networks and the dangers of contaminated or adulterated cannabis.