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WIRE: New Hampshire House approves marijuana decriminalization bill

HB 1631 would replace criminal penalties and potential jail time with a civil fine for possession of small amounts of marijuana

CONCORD — The New Hampshire House of Representatives approved a bill on March 10 in a voice vote that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine. The measure will now be considered in the Senate.

HB 1631 would make possession of up to one-half ounce of marijuana a civil violation punishable by a fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and $500 for a third or subsequent offense. Under current state law, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.

“This is commonsense marijuana policy reform,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “It is irrational to brand people as criminals simply for possessing a substance that is safer than alcohol.”

Nearly three out of four New Hampshire residents (72%) think the legislature should decriminalize marijuana possession or make it legal for adults, according to a WMUR Granite State Poll released earlier this month. The full results are available at http://bit.ly/1Xdt8j9.

“New Hampshire citizens want the legislature to adopt a more sensible marijuana policy,” Simon said. “House members have done their part, and we hope their colleagues in the Senate will join them in supporting this measure.”

New Hampshire is the only state in New England that treats simple marijuana possession as a criminal offense with the potential for jail time. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have removed the threat of jail for simple marijuana possession. Fifteen other states, including New Hampshire, are considering bills to do so this year.

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