Measure with bipartisan support would replace criminal penalties and potential jail time with a civil fine of up to $100 for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana
CONCORD --- The New Hampshire House of Representatives Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee approved a bill 12-5 that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The measure is expected to pass in the House when it comes to a vote later this month.
HB 1625, sponsored by Rep. Adam Schroadter (R-Newmarket) and a bipartisan group of seven co-sponsors including Sen. Jeff Woodburn (D-Dalton), would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana punishable by a civil fine of up to $100. It would also make cultivation of up to six plants a Class A misdemeanor instead of a felony. Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000. New Hampshire is the only state in New England that treats simple marijuana possession as a criminal offense with the potential for jail time.
"There is no good reason to continue criminalizing people for possessing marijuana," said Matt Simon, the Goffstown-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which is supporting the bill. "Nobody should be saddled with a criminal record simply for possessing a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol. This should be the year New Hampshire brings its penalties into line with neighboring states."
According to a survey conducted in January 2013 by Public Policy Polling, 62% of New Hampshire voters support replacing the state's current criminal penalties for marijuana possession with a fine of up to $100 and no jail time. Only 27% said they were opposed. The full results of the poll are available at http://www.mpp.org/states/new-hampshire/2013NewHampshireResults.pdf.
Seventeen states have removed the threat of jail for possession of marijuana, including Colorado and Washington, where marijuana is now legal for adults 21 and older. The District of Columbia Council is expected to approve a bill today to remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine, similar to a parking ticket.