New Hampshire marijuana laws are known in New England for being some of the strictest in the area. Neighboring states Massachusetts and Maine both voted to legalize recreational marijuana last November while, just a short distance away in New Hampshire, you can be sent to jail for having even the smallest quantity of marijuana. For this reason, lawmakers have been trying for years to decriminalize marijuana, saving lives and tax payer money on something that’s legal in 1/5 of the country.
New Governor, New Opportunities
Now lawmakers are trying to pass a decriminalization bill again. This time, however, they are hopeful that with former Governor Hassam out of office, the bill stands a chance to pass. Hassam was notoriously opposed to previous decriminalization efforts. Previously, the bill passed the House 7 times before being blocked in the Senate. Now with new Governor Chris Sununu, who is supportive of decriminalizing cannabis, New Hampshire marijuana laws may finally change.
New Hampshire Marijuana Decriminalization in Detail
Currently, being caught with up to 1 ounce of marijuana is a criminal misdemeanor that can land you in jail for up to a year and give you a $2000 fine. With the charge going on a person’s criminal record, it will affect all areas of the individual’s life, including his/her ability to get work, housing and even education. If the new bill passes and an adult over the age of 21 is found with up to an ounce of marijuana, s/he would simply receive a $100 civil fine, similar to getting a parking ticket. Should the bill pass, it would also save the state a lot of taxpayer money that is spent on law enforcement, court and incarceration costs.
Possible Libertarian Influence
A recent WMUR Granite State Poll revealed that more than 60 percent of New Hampshire voters are in favor of decriminalization. At this point, with the support of the people, the Governor and the House, it seems a lot closer to passing than ever before. State Representative Chuck Grassie said, “I think what you’re seeing now is a libertarian element that is supporting this. We have a number of Republicans who are libertarians and feel if this is a crime it’s a victimless crime, and this is more a social issue than a criminal matter.”
Other Proposed Changes to New Hampshire Marijuana Law
Decriminalization isn’t the only New Hampshire marijuana law being discussed by lawmakers this year. A large number of amendments are being looked at in regards to the state’s medical marijuana program. A number of stricter rules and requirements are being examined for possible changes so that more people can be helped by the program. Several new illnesses are being added to the list of qualifying conditions including chronic pain, opioid addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), fibromyalgia, myelitis and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Another big change to the program will be allowing medical marijuana patients to grow their own plants. Patients would be able to grow up to 2 mature plants and 12 immature plants. The canopy must be no larger than 50 square feet. All of this would significantly change the program, allowing many more people to get help.
2017 is looking like a year of marijuana policy reform this year. With a conservative state like New Hampshire really scrutinizing its cannabis laws, progress remains obvious. Time will tell how it evolves.