New Hampshire Lawmakers (Finally) Pass Bill to Decriminalize Marijuana

CONCORD, NH — Getting busted for small amounts of marijuana in a state who’s motto is “Live Free or Die” will soon no longer result in the possibility of jail time.

New Hampshire will finally become the final state in New England to decriminalize marijuana possession, as the House of Representatives voted Thursday to give final approval to House Bill 640, sending it to the desk of Chris Sununu, who is expected to sign the measure into law.

Once it takes effect, the new law will reduce the penalty for possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana or five grams of hash 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.

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, currently 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.

HB 640 was originally introduced in the House by Rep. Renny Cushing and a bipartisan group of co-sponsors.  Text of the bill, as passed by lawmakers, can be found here.

Changes to the law will take effect 60 days after the bill is signed by the Governor.

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