Should New Hampshire decriminalize marijuana?
By: LFDA Editor
Despite repeated attempts in recent years, the Legislature has been unable to pass legislation that would allow adults to purchase and use small amounts of marijuana.
Under the current law, marijuana possession is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail, and a $2,000 fine.
Supporters of marijuana decriminalization argue that marijuana is no more harmful that alcohol, which the state already profits from through taxes. Legalization could also minimize the black market, which supports other criminal activity.
Opponents of marijuana legalization argue that any tax revenues for the state would be minimal compared to the costs of lost productivity, health care, and law enforcement if marijuana use increases. The history of alcohol and tobacco sales suggests that marijuana sellers would advertise to increase marijuana use, particularly among youth.
An October 2013 WMUR-Granite State poll found 51% of NH adults support legalization of marijuana for recreational use, with 45% opposed and 8% neutral. Fourteen states, including Massachusetts, have decriminalization laws, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Rep. Adam Schroadter (R-Newmarket) is the primary sponsor of HB 1625, a 2014 bill to decriminalize possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. That bill passed the House and now heads to the Senate.
Rep. Kris Robertson (D-Keene) is sponsoring HB 1446, a bill to ban synthetic marijuana. HB 1611, sponsored by Rep. Susan Emerson (R-Rindge) would also ban synthetic marijuana.
Three bills related to marijuana legalization and decriminalization were proposed in the 2013 legislative session:
HB 621 - a bill that categorized possession of less than a quarter-ounce of marijuana as a 'violation' and punishable by a fine of up to $200 - came the closest to passage. It passed the House (214-115), but was killed in the Senate (voice vote). Sen. Donna Soucy (D - District 18) told the Concord Monitor the bill failed to address repeat offenders and the state lacked a drug awareness program for under-18 offenders.
HB 492 legalized the personal use of up to one ounce of marijuana by persons 21 years of age or older; authorized the licensing of marijuana wholesale, retail, cultivation, and testing facilities; and imposed a tax on the sale of marijuana. The House killed that bill March 26, 2014.
HB 337 - a bill that removed the criminal penalties for possession or use of marijuana - was killed in the House.