BY: Citizens Count
A bill being considered by the Legislature this year would make it easier for adults to have arrests and convictions for possession of small amounts of marijuana removed from their criminal records.
Marijuana law in NH
Possession of marijuana in New Hampshire is illegal, unless medicinal marijuana has been prescribed by a physician as part of your health treatment.
Prior to Sept. 16, 2017 conviction of marijuana possession of any quantity was a felony, carrying with it the potential of jail time and/or a hefty fine, plus a criminal record.
But last September, possession of up to 3/4 of an ounce of marijuana was decriminalized. That means if an adult is caught with that amount, it is treated as a violation, like a parking ticket, resulting in a $100 fine that won't go on your criminal record.
Past marijuana convictions
However, New Hampshire’s marijuana decriminalization law didn’t impact past arrests and convictions for possession of small amounts of cannabis.
That’s where HB 1477, sponsored by state Rep. Renny Cushing (D-Hampton), comes in.
It can be hard to have a drug conviction annulled, which removes it from your criminal record. There are years-long wait periods, and judges have a great deal of discretion to turn down petitions for annulment.
If HB 1477 passes, it would do away with the waiting period to file for offenses related to possession of ¾ of an ounce or less of cannabis. What’s more, the onus would be on prosecutors to show that the offense actually entailed more than ¾ of an ounce of pot—otherwise, the court must grant the annulment.
Those petitioning for an annulment do have to pay a $100 fee to cover the costs for processing the petition.
Arguments for and against the bill
Sponsors of the bill say possession of small amounts of marijuana should never have been considered a felony. Those convicted prior to its decriminalization should not have to carry the burden of a criminal record, which can make it harder for them to find work and move forward with their lives.
Opponents argue that marijuana possession of any quantity was a criminal offense at the time of these convictions. Those who broke the law knew the potential consequences of their actions and shouldn’t get a retroactive break on justice.