NH Expected to Decriminalize Marijuana - NECN
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NH Expected to Decriminalize Marijuana

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    NEWSLETTERS

    (Published Friday, June 2, 2017)

    A bill that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in New Hampshire is expected to be signed by Gov. Chris Sununu. It will make the Granite State the very last in New England to do so.

    "I know New Hampshire is late compared to other states, but we finally did the right thing," said New Hampshire House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff.

    For the first time in the state's history, a bill decriminalizing three quarters of an ounce of marijuana has now passed the New Hampshire House and Senate.

    "I think it was time for New Hampshire to do it," said Concord resident Naomi Fitzgibbons.

    The governor is expected to sign the bill, which would make possessing a small amount of marijuana a violation instead of a crime, removing any possibility of jail time for violators.

    "I spent my working career in law enforcement," Shurtleff said in a Friday interview. "I hate to see anyone end up with a criminal conviction because they had a couple joints on them."

    But some Granite Staters are afraid decriminalization is a slippery slope.

    "Could be leading toward legalizing larger amount," said Pittsfield resident Evelyn Richard. "When is enough enough?"

    That concern is shared by representatives with the health advocacy group New Futures.

    "When you use terms like 'decriminalization,' it makes it sound like, well, it's OK," said New Futures Vice President of Advocacy Kate Frey.

    But for the first time, Frey says New Futures did not oppose this bill. Instead, advocates worked with lawmakers to find common ground, like ensuring the $100 fine will go directly into substance abuse programs in the state.

    "We understand this doesn't need to be a criminal offense, but at the same time, we need to have prevention measures in place," Frey said.

    When it comes to enforcement, local police agencies say not much changes for them.

    Capt. Brett Morgan with the Plaistow Police Department is making it clear, this bill does not mean that it's OK to carry marijuana.

    "People get misinformed with what decriminalization means. It's not legalization," Capt. Morgan said. "At the end of the day, it is still illegal to possess it."

    Morgan is afraid this bill sends the wrong message to residents in a state struggling with a growing drug epidemic.

    "I think it lessens the focus on it," he said.

    No timeline yet on when Gov. Sununu plans to sign the bill into law.

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