New Hampshire lawmakers are calling on the state to decriminalize marijuana. In a hearing today, those in favor of the idea outlined a number of reasons why the state should think seriously about changing its marijuana laws.
To begin with, supporters of decriminalization said that enforcing marijuana laws is too expensive. They cited studies that have found that New Hampshire spent more than $6.5 million last year cracking down on people caught with marijuana.
Lawmakers also pointed out that marijuana laws disproportionately affect people of color. A recent study showed that black people in New Hampshire are 2.6 times more likely to get busted for marijuana possession than their white counterparts.
Many of those in favor of the move toward decriminalization said that current marijuana laws are too harsh on first time offenders.
Last month, a 26 year old man died in a New Hampshire jail after being arrested for a petty marijuana possession charge. Democratic Representative Renny Cushing pointed to this as an example of the harm caused by current laws.
New Hampshire began issuing medical marijuana cards toward the end of 2015.
Despite this, it is the only state in New England that has not decriminalized marijuana across the board.
Under current laws, a person who gets caught in New Hampshire with up to an ounce of marijuana could get sentenced to as many as three years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
The new bill would reduce the penalties for possessing an ounce or less of marijuana to a minor offense carrying a $100 fine.
When lawmakers floated the idea in today’s hearing, they were met by several voices of opposition.
Those who don’t think decriminalization would be a good idea said that it would only encourage more drug use. They fear that more relaxed marijuana laws would end up contributing to the number of people addicted to drugs in New Hampshire.
If the state does decide to decriminalize marijuana it would add its name to a growing list. There are currently twenty states and Washington D.C. where marijuana has been decriminalized.