The New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee approved an amended version of HB 640 on May 2. The full Senate will vote on the bill on May 11. In February, the bill cleared the House in a 318 – 36 vote.
The May 2 vote is the first time a marijuana-related bill has passed a NH Senate committee, according to Marijuana Policy Project. Governor Chris Sununu is a consistent supporter of decriminalizing marijuana possession in small amounts. Plans to sign the bill if the full Senate passes HB 640 are expected.
Matt Simon, New England political director for Marijuana Policy Project, said, “This is a big step toward a more sensible marijuana policy in New Hampshire. It will allow police and the courts to spend their time addressing serious crimes instead of wasting it on pointless arrests and criminal prosecutions for marijuana possession.”
Representative Renny Cushing introduced HB 640 with several bipartisan co-sponsors. Under HB 640 those in possession of three-quarters of an ounce or less would result in a civil violation with a $100 fine for first and second offenses. Third offenses would be a $300 fine if the offense is within three years of the first. Offenses four and above in a three year period may result in class B misdemeanor charges (without arrest or jail time).
Simon said, “The current penalties for marijuana possession in New Hampshire are causing more harm to consumers and the community than marijuana itself. Every other state in New England has already stopped criminalizing people for simple marijuana possession. Granite Staters are ready to do the same.”
Polls conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center in July 2016 show that 72-percent of NH residents support decriminalization and/or legalization of marijuana.