Committee approves bill to decriminalize marijuana – WMUR Manchester
New Hampshire may soon join other New England states in loosening the law when it comes to marijuana possession.
Click to watch News 9’s coverage.
The Committee on Criminal Justice voted overwhelmingly Thursday to support a measure making it a violation, rather than a criminal offense, to possess a half-ounce or less of marijuana.
Under current law, possession of an ounce of marijuana or less is a Class A misdemeanor that carries with it a possible year in jail, but some believe that when it comes to societal problems, there are bigger fish to fry.
“We should be better spending our limited time and resources, and on top of that, the New Hampshire Constitution says the penalty ought to fit the crime,” said Rep. Adam Shroadter, R-Newmarket.
Under Shroadter’s bill, possession of a half-ounce would carry a penalty of a $100 fine for the first offense. Violators would not have a criminal record.
“I’ve been a cop for 43 years, and I’ve never seen anybody go to jail for a first offense,” said Rep. John Tholl, R-Whitefield. “So reducing it to a violation is a good fit, I think.”
“This is a good idea, whether New Hampshire is going to legalize marijuana next year, in 20 years or never,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project. “It’s just about, what should our priorities be?”
Police chiefs have long opposed the concept of decriminalizing marijuana in New Hampshire, while others said they believe loosening the current laws only tightens the grip of addiction.
“I don’t have a problem with medical marijuana, but the recreational use,” said Rep. John Martin, R-Bow. “We are just adding one more intoxicant to the pantheon of drugs out there for people to use, and I don’t think it’s right.”
Even with the positive recommendation from the Criminal Justice Committee, the bill faces an uncertain future when it hits the floor of the House and Senate.
A recent WMUR poll showed that 71 percent of New Hampshire adults either favored loosening the current law or legalizing marijuana altogether.
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