BY: Citizens Count
In 2018, New Hampshire lawmakers will consider HB 1678, a bill that would reduce the penalty for first-offense drug possession charges to a misdemeanor. In the case of repeat offenders, the sentencing court may decide whether to sentence them to a misdemeanor or a felony.
Current drug sentencing policy
Under current New Hampshire law, first-time drug offenders caught possessing schedule I-IV drugs (ranging from heroin and cocaine to certain sleeping pills) are guilty of a Class B felony. Class B felonies in the Granite State can carry prison sentences of 3 ½ to 7 years, along with substantial fines.
Jail time too harsh for first offense?
Proponents of this legislation argue that the current law is too harsh on first-time drug offenders. They believe that charging someone with a felony for a single drug offense sets them up for a lifetime of recidivism. Supporters of the bill believe it would give first-time, often young, offenders the chance to seek recovery without having to live with the black mark of a felony conviction on their record.
Drug offenses justify tough punishment
Opponents feel this bill is too lenient on those caught using dangerous drugs. Reducing the penalty for using controlled substances will only embolden young people to try drugs. Those opposing this bill point out that New Hampshire is in the throes of an opioid epidemic – relaxing the penalty for drug possession would only further exacerbate the problem.
What do you think? Do you support legislation that would reduce the penalty for a first-time drug offense to a misdemeanor? Let us know by leaving a comment – yes or no, and why – in the space below.