On July 18, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu signed a marijuana decriminalization billinto law. The move makes the Granite State the 22nd in the country to eliminate jail time as a punishment for cannabis possession. It’s also the last New England state to do so.
Once the law takes effect in September, possession of three-quarters of an ounce of cannabis flowers or five grams of hash will be subject to a $100 fine. Previously, such an offense was punishable with a fine of $2,000 and up to one year in prison.
Similar legislation passed the state House several times in the past, but it was the first time the Senate approved the measure. While the original House bill 640 decriminalized an ounce of marijuana, the Senate lowered the quantity.
Noting that a cannabis offense can lead to “a lifetime of harsh consequences,” including “denial of student financial aid, housing, employment and professional licenses,” HB 640 addresses “social and racial inequities in the New Hampshire criminal justice system.” The measure also aims to free up time and resources for police and courts to deal with more serious crimes.
“New Hampshire lawmakers should continue to follow their constituents’ lead on this issue,” New England political director for the Marijuana Police Project stated. “Every state in New England is either implementing or strongly considering legislation to regulate marijuana for adult use. It’s time for the legislature to develop a realistic marijuana prohibition exit strategy.”
To be clear, eight states have legalized marijuana via ballot initiatives. Another 14 states currently have decrim policies, which fall short of legalization (see below). On June 20, adult-use legalization failed in Vermont when Gov. Phil Scott vetoed legislation.
Elsewhere in the Northeast, on July 18, by a 4-1 vote, York, Pa.’s City Council decriminalized the possession and consumption of marijuana, joining four other municipalities in Pennsylvania (Lancaster, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and State College) that have passed decriminalization measures over the last three years. However, fines for violations vary widely in York.
In Virginia, the State Crime Commission is seeking public comment until August 25 regarding statewide decrim. The commission will present its findings in October.
Legal states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington
Decrim states: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont
This post was originally published at freedomleaf.com. Check out Freedom Leaf magazine for this editor’s Word on the Tree column.