NH governor signs marijuana decriminalization bill

Darryl W Perry Cannabis Torch 2016

Darryl W Perry Cannabis Torch 2016

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu signed legislation today decriminalizing minor marijuana possession offenses. 640, culminating a yearslong, bipartisan bid to reduce criminal penalties for individuals caught with small amounts of pot.

"Now all of New England is a decriminalized marijuana zone!"

HB 640 will reduce the penalty for possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor - now 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 would result in a Class B misdemeanor charge.

House Bill 640 will decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in New Hampshire, and it will start to take effect in 60 days.

The bill specifically forbids police officers from arresting anyone for a marijuana possession violation.

Gov. Maggie Hassan, Sununu's predecessor, was opposed to marijuana decriminalization, and had threatened to veto it, should it reach her desk.

Matt Simon, the Manchester-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project said, "It is refreshing to see the Senate finally come to an agreement with the House on this issue". Ordinarily, public use remains prohibited under both legalization and decriminalization. Adults in five of those states can legally purchase recreational marijuana from licensed dispensaries, and policymakers are in the midst of preparing to begin retail sales next year in California, Maine and MA. If New Hampshire takes up that possibility, it would join the eight other states that have already legalized cannabis.

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