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Gov. Sununu Signs Bill Decriminalizing Marijuana
Published Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill into law Tuesday that will decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in NH. It will officially take effect in 60 days, making NH the 22nd state in the nation—and the last of the New England states—to eliminate the possibility of jail time for simple marijuana possession.

“Unlike his predecessors, who opposed similar proposals, Gov. Sununu appears to understand that ‘Live Free or Die’ is more than just a motto on a license plate," says Matt Simon, the Manchester-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "This is a big step toward a more sensible marijuana policy for New Hampshire.”

HB 640 was introduced by Rep. Renny Cushing (D-Hampton) and a bipartisan group of co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, where it received overwhelming approval in February (318-36). The Senate amended and approved it on May 11 (17-6), and the House passed the Senate version by a voice vote on June 1.

“There’s a lot of collateral damage that’s done by arresting people for marijuana,” Cushing said in May, according to NHPR. “We spend $35,000 a year to keep someone in jail, prison in this state for marijuana possession at a time when we don’t have enough money for beds for opioid addicts.”

HB 640 will reduce the penalty for possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor—currently punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000—to a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine for a first or second offense and a $300 fine for a third offense within three years of the first offense. A fourth offense within three years of the first offense could be charged as a class B misdemeanor, but there would be no arrest or possibility of jail time.

More than two-thirds of NH adults (68 percent) support making marijuana legal, according to a poll released last month by the University of NH Survey Center.

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