New Hampshire Governor Will Sign Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

CONCORD, NH — Shortly after lawmakers in the New Hampshire Senate voted to approve a bill to decriminalize marijuana in the Granite State, sending the measure back to the House to approve a few minor changes made in the Senate, Governor Chris Sununu said he would sign the measure into law.

“I want to thank the legislature for passing common sense marijuana reform,” Sununu said in a statement. “I look forward to signing House Bill 640 into law.”

Before the Governor can sign the bill into law, House Bill 640 returns to the House of Representatives, which overwhelmingly approved the original version in February (318-36) and is expected to concur with the Senate-approved version soon.

HB 640 was originally introduced in the House by Rep. Renny Cushing and a bipartisan group of co-sponsors.

The version of the bill approved in the Senate would reduce the penalty for possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor — currently punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000 — to a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine for a first or second offense and a $300 fine for a third offense within three years of the first offense.   The original proposal in the House had called for slightly higher fines.

A fourth offense within three years of the first offense could be charged as a class B misdemeanor, but there would be no arrest or possibility of jail time.

Despite years of attempts to decriminalize marijuana possession in New Hampshire, the Granite State remains the only New England state where marijuana possession remains a crime with the possibility of jail time.  Possession of any amount of marijuana in New Hampshire is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and fines of up to $350.

According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), police in New Hampshire make around 2,900 marijuana possession arrests each year.

The New Hampshire House approved decriminalization bills in each of the last five years, only to see those bills die in the Senate.

Voters from two of New Hampshire’s neighbors, Maine to the north and Massachusetts to the south, legalized marijuana possession at the polls in November.

Earlier this week, lawmakers in Vermont sent legislation to the Governor’s desk that would legalize the personal possession and cultivation of limited amounts of marijuana for adults.

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