It’s official: New Hampshire weed is now legally decriminalized. On Tuesday, Governor Chris Sununu signed a bill effectively made New Hampshire the last state in New England to forgo cannabis possession as a criminal offense.
The Deal With New Hampshire Weed
The new law, which is set to take effect in 60 days, dictates that people caught with up to three-quarters of an ounce of cannabis or up to five grams of hash will not face criminal charges.
While New Hampshire weed has not been fully legalized as of now, residents of the state are allowed to possess medicinal cannabis if they qualify for a medical license. Medicinal usage and possession were first legalized in 2015. Prior to the introduction of this bill, citizens found in possession of weed in the state were in danger of facing a one-year jail sentence if convicted.
A Long Time Coming
Despite being a part of the traditionally liberal region of New England, the battle for decriminalization in New Hampshire, which is now the 22nd in the country to do so, was not an easy one. Prior to Sununu’s term as governor, his precursor—former governor Maggie Hassan—was strongly opposed to downgrading possession as a non-criminal offense. While the state’s House of Representatives traditionally voted in favor of decriminalization, the state Senate was not as open to a new brand of legislation.
While the state’s House of Representatives traditionally voted in favor of decriminalization, the state Senate was not as open to a new brand of legislation. This year, however, ushered in a sea change. With the Senate voting to pass the bill into law, many credited Sununu for the watershed moment.
“The governor deserves credit for his steadfast support of this common-sense reform,” said Matt Simon, political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Unlike his predecessors, who opposed similar proposals, Gov. Sununu appears to understand that ‘Live Free or Die’ is more than just a motto on a license plate.”
Many have also expressed hope that the measures taken to decriminalize cannabis possession in the state will reshift the state’s focus onto more pressing issues.
“There’s a lot of collateral damage that’s done by arresting people for marijuana,” said Representative Renny Cushing (D) when asked about decriminalization back in May of this year.
He pointed to the disparity between pursuing punitive measures for cannabis possession and remedial efforts for opioid abusers.
“We spend $35,000 a year to keep someone in jail, in prison in this state for marijuana possession at a time when we don’t have enough money for beds for opioid addicts.”
Considering that the rise of decriminalization coincides with a massive drop in possession arrests, things are only looking up from here.