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Bill to Annul Convictions for Small Amounts of Pot Passes N.H. Committee

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

A bill to allow for annulment of criminal convictions for possession of small amounts of marijuana in New Hampshire has received a favorable recommendation from a House committee.

The legislation was drafted after Gov. Chris Sununu, R-Newfields, signed into law a measure to decriminalize possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce of pot. The law took effect Sept. 16, 2017. 

Under the bill, any person arrested or convicted for for having that amount of marijuana before that date will be allowed to petition the court to request the annulment of the arrest or court record.

Rep. Renny Cushing, a Hampton Democrat who is the lead sponsor of the bill, said no one testified against it during a recent public hearing. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee endorsed it 14-4 last week. 

Individuals with this conviction can face challenges with finding work or housing, according to Cushing. He says given the decriminalization step - New Hampshire became the 22nd state to do so, including New England neighbors -- it just makes sense.

"It hardly seems fair for us to penalize someone for something that now is not a criminal act," he says.

Or, as he writes in the majority report: "Fairness requires that we provide the opportunity to remove the shackles of a criminal record for an activity that no longer is criminal." 

Cushing did not have an estimate of the number of cases that might be brought through this proposed annulment procedure.


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