Ben Swann – by Annabelle Bamforth
A marijuana decriminalization bill, sponsored by New Hampshire State Representative Adam Schroadter, passed 215-92 on March 12th. The bill, HB-1625, would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a minor violation with a maximum fine of $100. Currently possession of any amount of marijuana in NH is punishable by up to one year in jail and fines of up to $2,000.
This bill differs from the one passed by the NH House in January, in which marijuana would be sold at approved dispensaries with a tax of $30 per ounce. In that bill, residents would also be allowed to grow up to six plants at home.
New Hampshire remains the only New England state that has not passed marijuana decriminalization legislation. NH State Representative Keith Murphy has said that out of 2,800 marijuana arrests in 2010, nearly 90% of them were for simple possession.
New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan (D) has expressed partial support of medical marijuana use by signing House Bill 573 into law, but this bill is very restrictive: she called for home cultivation to be stripped from the law, limited qualifying conditions including the removal of PTSD, and required written permissions from landlords for tenants to use medicinal marijuana on their property. Many patients are frustrated with the length of time being taken to implement medical use; it’s estimated they will be able to use it in the summer of 2015 at the very earliest.
Hassan does not support recreational marijuana use; she has planned to veto January’s recreational marijuana bill, saying that “We have some challenges in our state when it comes to substance abuse. We need to be focusing on that, and I just think it’s the wrong message to send to young people.” She has not yet commented on the decriminalization bill.
Uncontested Republican candidate for NH Governor Andrew Hemingway responded to HB-1625, “I applaud the House for taking this step. The idea that a young person with a small amount of marijuana can have his or her life ruined by jail time, by revocation of college acceptance, by a criminal record–is outrageous. The punishment should fit the crime and we are heading in the right direction with this issue. New Hampshire used common sense on this legislation and I look forward to its process moving ahead .”