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New Hampshire on Track to Decriminalize Marijuana Possession

New bill would make the offense a civil infraction.

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New Hampshire could become the next state in the nation to eliminate the criminal penalties associated with small-time marijuana possession.

Earlier this week, a group of lawmakers submitted a piece of legislation (House Bill 640) aimed at decriminalizing the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana throughout the state. Instead of calling for jail, the bill would make the offense a civil infraction – punishable with a fine comparable to a traffic ticket, according to the Union Leader.

As it stands, anyone busted with up to an ounce of marijuana in New Hampshire can be slapped with a criminal misdemeanor, which comes with a penalty of up to a year behind bars and fines reaching $2,000. The proposal currently on the table would reduce this punishment for those adults 21 and over – forcing them to simply pay a $100 fine for the minor transgression.

If the measure passes the House, it will mark the eighth time the decriminalization issue cleared that hurdle, only to be snuffed out by the Senate based on former Governor Hassam’s threats of a veto.

However, many lawmakers are of the opinion that 2017 is the year that this reform gains the necessary support.

“I think what you’re seeing now is a libertarian element that is supporting this,” said State Representative Chuck Grassie. “We have a number of Republicans who are libertarians and feel if this is a crime it’s a victimless crime, and this is more a social issue than a criminal matter.”

One of the last WMUR Granite State Polls shows that over 60 percent of the voters in New Hampshire support decriminalization.

If the proposal manages to go the distance with legislative forces, it stands a good chance at becoming law. Unlike his predecessor, Governor Chris Sununu believes the state should decriminalize marijuana.

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