CONCORD – Today the New Hampshire Senate passed, with a 17-6 vote, critical drug policy reform in a measure to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Under HB 640, as amended by the Senate, an adult 18 years or older in possession of three quarters of an ounce or less of marijuana would be guilty of a violation for their first three offenses and not subject to arrest. Their fourth offense committed within a three year period would constitute a class B misdemeanor. The bill now goes back to the New Hampshire House of Representatives.
“It is past time for New Hampshire to join the rest of New England in adopting more sensible marijuana possession laws,” stated Devon Chaffee, the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire. “We applaud the New Hampshire Senate and urge the House to concur with the Senate version of the bill and send it to the Governor’s desk without delay.”
Governor Chris Sununu has indicated his support for the marijuana decriminalization effort.
According to an ACLU 2013 study, New Hampshire spent over $6.5 million in a single year enforcing marijuana possession laws. In New Hampshire blacks are 2.6 times more likely to be arrested for a marijuana possession offense than whites.
Every other state in New England has had laws decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana for many years. Moreover, last November voters in Maine and Massachusetts passed ballot measures to legalize and regulate the possession and sale of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use. Just yesterday the Vermont Legislature sent a legalization bill to Governor Phil Scott’s desk. A poll released on Tuesday by the University of New Hampshire shows that 68% of Granite Staters support New Hampshire following its neighbors and adopting marijuana legalization.