In just a matter of two months, people caught in possession of small amounts of marijuana in New Hampshire will no longer have to worry about being arrested or serving time in jail.
On Tuesday, Governor Chris Sununu put his signature of a piece of legislation designed to eliminate the criminal penalties associated with marijuana possession. The new law, which is set to take effect in 60 days, will allow anyone caught with up to three quarters of an ounce of flower or five grams of hash to simply pay a fine between $100 and $300 instead of being thrown to the wolves of the criminal justice system.
However, for those unfortunate souls who make it habit of getting picked up by police with weed in their pockets, the law will only tolerate so much. First, second and even third offenses will be handled with fines, but someone busted a fourth time could easily find themselves under the blade of a criminal misdemeanor.
Nevertheless, marijuana advocates are pleased with the Governor’s willingness to implement this common sense reform.
“The governor deserves credit for his steadfast support of this commonsense reform,” Matt Simon, political director for the New England chapter of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. “Unlike his predecessors, who opposed similar proposals, Gov. Sununu appears to understand that ‘Live Free or Die’ is more than just a motto on a license plate.”
As it stands, the current law penalizes those caught in possession of small amounts of marijuana with up to a year in jail and fines reaching $2,000. The state’s revised policy is expected to prevent thousands of people from suffering these repercussions.
There is hope that lawmakers will take the next logical step in the upcoming legislative session and push for marijuana to be made completely legal. Some of the latest polls show that around 68 percent of New Hampshire residents now support the idea of establishing a system that allows cannabis to be taxed and regulated in a manner similar to alcohol.
“New Hampshire lawmakers should continue to follow their constituents’ lead on this issue,” Simon said. “Every state in New England is either implementing or strongly considering legislation to regulate marijuana for adult use. It is time for the Legislature to develop a realistic marijuana prohibition exit strategy for New Hampshire.”