The New Hampshire Senate, which has historically rejected proposals to decriminalize marijuana, took a step toward breaking that streak Tuesday.
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a measure by a three to two vote that would make the possession of three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana a violation rather than a crime. Under the bill, the first two offenses would carry a $100 fine with the third being a misdemeanor. Currently, the first offense could bring up to a year in jail.
But Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project says with pot now legalized in neighboring Massachusetts and Maine - times are changing.
“It’s just a reality – marijuana prohibition is not going to become an effective policy," Simon said, who's been advocating for this for roughly a decade now. "Is this the best way for police and courts to be spending their time dealing with arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana?," he asks. "Most Granite Staters would say no and most legislators now are saying no as well.”
Sen. Jeb Bradley, who’s behind this new proposal, says reaching this amount was a compromise. The original bill, which was passed in the House 318 to 26, decriminalized an ounce. Bradley said not all parties involved are completely happy with the final product. That includes the state's Chiefs of Police Association.
Enfield Police Chief Richard Crate says most of the chiefs were hoping to settle on a quarter of an ounce or even 1/8th of an ounce.
"I don't think people understand how much drugs that really is," he said. "Public opinion has swayed over the years that marijuana isn't bad but we want to get that back, so that people aren't using these drugs, especially young people."
Bradley says he expects the Senate as well as the House to pass this. If that’s the case Governor Chris Sununu has said he’d sign it.