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New Hampshire Senate Blocks Widely Supported Marijuana Decriminalization Bill


new hampshire medical marijuanaDespite overwhelming approval in the House — and a poll released last week that found 63% of New Hampshire voters support such legislation — the Senate tabled HB 618 on Thursday evening

CONCORD — The New Hampshire Senate blocked a widely supported bill Thursday evening that would have removed criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

After Senators voted 9-15 to overturn the Judiciary Committee’s recommendation that the bill be killed, Sens. Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) and David Pierce (D-Etna) proposed a compromise floor amendment to HB 618. Four senators argued strongly against the bill and the amendment: David Boutin (R-Hooksett), Sharon Carson (R-Londonderry), Gary Daniels (R-Milford), and Jeannie Forrester (R-Meredith). Senators were unable to agree on the language and the bill was tabled.

HB 618, which the House approved 297-67 in March, would have made possession of up to one-half ounce of marijuana a civil violation punishable by a fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and $500 for a third or subsequent offense. Under current state law, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.

“The Senate’s failure to adopt this moderate, commonsense legislation is truly stunning,” said Matt Simon, Goffstown-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “There is also exceptionally strong public support. Voters are clearly tired of New Hampshire being the only state left in New England that criminalizes people for simple marijuana possession.
“The senators who led the effort to block this bill should explain why they think citizens should be branded as criminals for possessing a substance that is less harmful than alcohol.”

Three out of five adults in New Hampshire (63%) support removing criminal penalties for marijuana possession, according to a WMUR Granite State Poll released last week. Only 27% said they were opposed.

New Hampshire is the only state in New England that treats simple marijuana possession as a criminal offense with the potential for jail time. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have removed the threat of jail for simple marijuana possession. The Illinois General Assembly approved a similar measure last month, which is now awaiting action from the governor.

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The Marijuana Policy Project, the nation’s largest marijuana policy organization, has been responsible for changing most state-level marijuana laws since 2000. For more information, visit http://www.MarijuanaPolicy.org.


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Johnny Green


  1. [Referring to the Decrim. vote]; “Sen. Sharon Carson of Londonderry says with the state battling a heroin epidemic, this is no time to be soft on drug crimes.” (NHPR)

    President Nixon used a similar argument to gain re-election back in 1972. We’ve been battling with people for the more than 43 years since then without success. It’s time to think outside the box and treat substance abuse and dependence like the health issue it really is. Never mind the fact that the JAMA published an article indicating that medical marijuana may have helped reduce opiate related deaths in those states that have fully implemented their laws.


    Getting “tough” on drug use does nothing but create more revenue for the black market and organized crime! I think we can all agree that there is no way to arrest our way out of this problem. The drug war has failed miserably. It has cost us over a $TRILLION dollars and countless lives have been ruined or lost altogether. We currently fund a Prison and Law Enforcement industrial complex rather than helping those who need help. In 2012 alone, NH spent some $6.5 million dollars arresting and convicting people for possession of less than an ounce of cannabis. Wouldn’t that money be better spent educating our children or offering treatment to those who need it?

    Does Senator Carson think that prison is the best way to rehabilitate someone who is dependent on drugs? Maybe she should put a little more effort into her research before she promotes failed policy…

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