Decriminalization: New Hampshire Bill Wins Committee Vote, Heads for House Floor

The New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted February 11 to approve House Bill 1653, which would decriminalize the possession of up to a quarter-ounce of marijuana. The measure passed on a 16-2 vote.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/new-hampshire-statehouse.jpg
New Hampshire Statehouse
The bill now heads for the House floor. It is scheduled for action on March 3.

Under current New Hampshire law, possession of up to a quarter-ounce is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. Under the bill, possession of that amount would be a non-criminal infraction punishable by a $200 fine.

Rep. David Welch (R-Kingston) told the Eagle Tribune the bill would probably pass the House. Continuing to spend law enforcement resources on pot smokers "seems foolish," he said. "It's no worse than tobacco and possibly not as bad."

The measure is supported by the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy. Coalition executive director Matt Simon told the Eagle Tribune he was pleasantly surprised by the victory. Similar legislation died two years ago, but now committee members are more comfortable, he said.

"In two years, much has changed," Simon said. "The committee has become much more knowledgeable about decriminalization and heard from constituents."

If the bill passes the House, it still must get through the Senate, and even then, it faces a probable veto from Gov. John Lynch (D) who opposes decriminalization. Lynch vetoed a medical marijuana bill last year. The House voted to override that veto, but the effort fell two votes short in the Senate.

Thirteen states have decriminalized marijuana possession. The most recent was neighboring Massachusetts, which did so last November via the initiative process.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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