A bill being considered by the Legislature this year would make it a misdemeanor to consume any quantity of marijuana in public.
Current marijuana law in NH
Last year, New Hampshire decriminalized the possession of small quantities of marijuana or marijuana-infused products (less than ¾ of an ounce or its equivalent).
That made possession of small quantities of the drug a violation, like a parking ticket. Offenders must pay a fine, but the offense doesn’t become part of their criminal records.
Criminal charges for use in public
That would change under HB 1815, sponsored by Rep. David Danielson (R-Bedford). The bill creates a new offense for consuming or displaying marijuana in public. It would be a misdemeanor charge, which does go on a criminal record, and entail a minimum fine of $350 (but not jail time).
Other proposed changes to state marijuana law
The bill proposes a few other changes to how the law handles small quantities of marijuana:
- The measure requires that marijuana and marijuana products be transported in a secure, childproof container that is not in the passenger area of the vehicle. An offense there would be considered a misdemeanor, and the driver’s license would be revoked for at least 60 days or up to two years.
- The bill requires records of marijuana-related violations to be made available to federal authorities upon written request.
Arguments for and against the bill
Supporters argue that even states that have legalized recreational use of marijuana still have laws against public consumption or display of the drug. Public use of the cannabis increases the chances of second-hand exposure, and could encourage theft. Requiring marijuana to be transported in a secure container, out of reach of the driver of a vehicle, also helps to discourage driving while under the influence of the drug.
Opponents counter that public use of marijuana is a nonviolent offense, and that criminal charges are too strict a penalty, as they can have a serious impact on a person’s future job and housing prospects. They argue that making public consumption a violation is a sufficient deterrent.