BY: Citizens Count
Gov. Chris Sununu signed HB 640, decriminalizing the possession of three-quarters of an ounce or less of marijuana for residents over age twenty-one. That makes possession a similar offense to a speeding ticket.
The new law takes effect in 60 days.
Broad support for decriminalization
The Legislature included the following arguments in favor of decriminalization in the bill text:
- Decriminalization will free up time for law enforcement to spend on more serious crimes
- Fewer New Hampshire residents will be burdened with a criminal record
- Because higher income, white residents are more likely to be able to defeat a marijuana possession charge, decriminalization has “the potential to address social and racial inequities in the New Hampshire criminal justice system.”
Opponents concerned about children
Bill opponents argued that decriminalizing any drug in the middle of a drug addiction crisis sends the wrong message to the public about drug use.
Many opponents were particularly concerned that children will be more likely to experiment with marijuana if the state loosens its laws.
Is marijuana legalization next?
For advocates of marijuana law reform, the next step is legalization of all recreational marijuana use.
Gov. Sununu signed HB 215, a bill establishing a committee to study the legalization and regulation of marijuana.
Marijuana legalization supporters believe the committee is stacked against legalization, because the committee does not include representatives of any pro-legalization groups. The committee does include New Futures, a nonprofit that opposes legalization.
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