The New Hampshire House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved HB 640 on Wednesday (318-36), bringing New Hampshire one step closer to becoming the final state in New England to decriminalize marijuana possession. The bill will now be considered by the Senate.
HB 640, sponsored by Rep. Renny Cushing (D-Hampton) and a bipartisan group of 10 co-sponsors, would reduce the penalty for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor, which is currently punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000, to a civil violation punishable by a fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense within three years, and $350 for a third or subsequent offense within three years of two previous offenses.
HB 640 has faced much less opposition than similar bills that failed in recent years. Only one person testified against it at a public hearing on February 1, and the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, which voted 7-6 last year to kill a similar measure (HB 1631), approved HB 640 14-2. Additionally, Gov. Chris Sununu has consistently said he supports decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, whereas previous governors have been opposed.
More than seven out of 10 Granite Staters (72%) would like to see the Legislature decriminalize or legalize marijuana, according to a WMUR Granite State Poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center in July 2016.
New Hampshire legalized marijuana for medical purposes in 2013, but bills to legalize marijuana for recreational use have not passed the legislature. However, a majority of Granite Staters support legalizing recreational marijuana in New Hampshire and have for several years. Currently, 62% support legalizing marijuana for recreational use (41% strongly and 21% somewhat), 30% oppose (19% strongly and 11% somewhat) and 8% are neutral or unsure....
If marijuana were legalized in the Granite State, a majority of New Hampshire residents (72%) approve of selling it at licensed retail outlets and taxing it, similar to how alcohol is sold (52% strongly and 20% somewhat), only 24% disapprove of this idea (18% strongly and 6% somewhat), 1% are neutral and 3% are unsure.
The New Hampshire House will kick off its 2014 session Wednesday, January 8, by voting on a bill that would end the prohibition of marijuana in New Hampshire. HB 492, modeled after Colorado’s Amendment 64, would allow adults to use, possess, and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana with no penalty. The bill would also set up a taxed and regulated market for marijuana production and sale. Legal sales to adult marijuana users began yesterday in Colorado, where marijuana possession and cultivation of up to six plants has been legal since January 2013. By adopting the similar policy proposed by HB 492, New Hampshire could save tens of millions of dollars in enforcement costs and generate up to $30 million in annual tax revenue. In October, the WMUR Granite State Poll found that 60% of New Hampshire voters support HB 492. If you live in New Hampshire, please urge your state representatives to vote YES on HB 492!