It seems that lawmakers in New Hampshire have been fighting tooth and nail for the past couple years to prevent any form of legislation aimed at legalizing marijuana to infiltrate the legislative gates, but there is a distinct possibility that these prohibitionists will let their guard down just enough this session to make way for a measure aimed at eliminating the criminal penalties for those busted holding small amounts of weed.
Earlier last week, the House of Representatives put their seal of approval on a bill that would decriminalize the possession of up to a half-ounce of marijuana.
The measure (House Bill 1631) would do away with the possibility of the cops dragging minor pot offenders to jail by simply forcing law enforcement to issue citations. Depending on whether a person is a first time offender or not, the fines would begin at $100 and cap out at $500.
As it stands, New Hampshire is the only state in New England that continues to drop the criminal hammer down on marijuana offenders. Prosecutors all over the state have the freedom to punish people busted for even a joint with up to a year in jail, while draining them financially to the tune of thousands of dollars.
Fortunately, while a key House committee voted against the latest decriminalization bill back in February, the full House managed to resurrect it last week in a voice vote of 193-104. It now moves on to the Senate for consideration.
"It looked like something was going to pass, but it actually got tabled the last day of the session, and died on the table," Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project told New Hampshire Public Radio. "The House is essentially giving them a do-over, by sending this bill back over and seeing if the Senate can work something out this year."
Although some of the latest polls indicate that 72 percent of New Hampshire residents are behind efforts to eliminate the criminal penalties attached to marijuana possession, there is still a relatively good chance that the latest decriminalization bill is only advancing on borrowed time. In fact, even if the Senate does manage to reach an agreement on the bill, it is likely that Governor Maggie Hassan will not sign it.
Last year, Hassan said she would not support a proposed decriminalization measure because she believes it would send “the wrong message to young people.” And while the governor did tender her support for medical marijuana three years ago, she simply does not appear ready to put her name on any law aimed at liberating the average stoner.