Urges state legislators to commit to key public safety positions on marijuana legalization and protecting bail reform, immigrants’ rights
NEW HAMPSHIRE – Racial justice, civil rights, and advocacy organization today released a joint statement on public safety legislation in New Hampshire, and urged state lawmakers to commit to key positions on marijuana legalization, bail reform, and immigrants’ rights.
Joint statement, with signing organizations listed at bottom:
The everyday harms Black, Brown, and other marginalized Granite Staters face are the direct result of intentional policy decisions by our current and former local, state, and federal elected leaders. Just as our elected leaders created these harms, they also have the power to undo them.
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder by a police officer in 2020, our elected leaders made bold promises to address the overwhelming injustices in our policing and criminal justice systems. Now is the time for our elected leaders to turn their commitments into action and focus on building safe and just communities for all.
Specifically, we call on our state legislators to commit to the following key public safety positions this legislative session:
- Legalize marijuana possession by adults (support HB 629 and HB 1598). New Hampshire’s war on marijuana is enforced with a staggering racial bias. In 2020 Black people were 4.8 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession when compared with white people, despite both groups using marijuana at roughly the same rate. And, this disparity is on the rise, up from 2.6 times more likely to be arrested in 2010 – a 46 percent increase. The racial bias in enforcement is even more pronounced with the city police departments in Manchester and Concord, where the disparities are 13.9 times and 5.8 times, respectively. The discriminatory enforcement of New Hampshire’s marijuana laws means that Black people are more likely to face the immediate harms of a marijuana arrest and charge, including potential incarceration, as well as the collateral consequences, including the loss of jobs, housing, and child custody.
- Don’t roll back bail reform (oppose HB 1476 and SB 294). In the midst of a national reckoning around systemic racism and police violence, it is unconscionable that legislators would expand the already disproportionate incarceration of Black people in New Hampshire. But, that is exactly what this legislation would do. The data already show that our state’s criminal laws are enforced with a staggering racial bias: For example, in 2020 Black people were 3.29 times more likely to be arrested compared with white people. For many low-level discretionary offenses the disparities were even more troubling–including 4.8 times for marijuana possession (despite both groups using marijuana at roughly the same rate), 5.9 times for disorderly conduct, and 6.52 times for vagrancy. Because Black people are disproportionately arrested, they will also be disproportionately incarcerated under this legislation’s mandatory incarceration regime.
- Don’t Further Erode Community Trust in Law Enforcement (oppose HB 1266). This legislation is designed to punish municipalities that have tried to improve public safety by taking commonsense measures to build community trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities. This legislation would raise fear and confusion within immigrant communities. NH values local control and municipalities have made considerable efforts to understand community concerns and respond to community safety needs. This bill would undermine those efforts by punishing municipalities even though they are not violating existing obligations to comply with federal laws. It could also force municipalities to expend scarce local resources and shoulder the economic costs, as well as the safety costs associated with decreased resources and attention devoted to local needs. Moreover, municipalities will be exposed to liability in federal court for constitutional violations.
New Hampshire’s elected leaders must stop turning police into society's "solution" for drug use, homelessness, mental illness, misbehaving children at school, and more. As a society, we must instead prioritize in these instances those who are better trained and equipped to handle these various issues.
If public safety really means ensuring the safety and well-being of all, then New Hampshire must invest in life-affirming services, like ensuring all people have a roof over their head, comprehensive healthcare, reliable public transportation and safe transportation routes, a living wage, and quality public education. Now is the time to act.
Organizations endorsing this statement:
350 New Hampshire
ACLU of New Hampshire
American Friends Service Committee
Black Lives Matter Manchester
Black Lives Matter Nashua
Black Lives Matter Seacoast
Granite State Organizing Project
James McKim, President of the Manchester Branch of the NAACP
NH Latino Caucus
Rights & Democracy NH