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New Hampshire HB 1526 Would Decriminalize, Not Legalize, Marijuana Possession

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new hampshire cannabisNew Hampshire House Bill 1526 Seeks To Decriminalize Marijuana Possession

Yesterday the New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committees held a hearing on New Hampshire House Bill 1526. New Hampshire House Bill 1526 would make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana punishable by a $100 fine. Currently possession of less than one ounce of marijuana in New Hampshire is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine. It’s nice to see some common sense being injected into the State of New Hampshire’s marijuana policy.

I’m not saying that everyone has to like marijuana or use marijuana, but I do think that everyone should want tax dollars spent as efficiently as possible. After all, we are in a budget crisis last time I checked. One year in jail for simple marijuana possession? Even non-educated people can see that the cost benefit analysis of such a policy doesn’t add up. People that consume marijuana do not put any strain on society. The only burden that marijuana consumers would place on New Hampshire society is wasting tax dollars by being incarcerated for a harmless act, which of course is not their fault.

I pasted the language of New Hampshire House Bill 1526 below. As you can see, the law is designed to protect people 18 and older, while giving a reasonable option for those that are under 18. I can’t think of too many things worse than a teenager being caught with marijuana, and the rest of their life virtually ruined as a result of an illogical prosecution. With this legislation, teenage offenders would be given treatment and a parent notification. If they didn’t handle their biz, then they would be fined. I think that’s much better than the current system that sends them to a juvenile detention center, wasting who knows how much tax dollars and possible ruining the teenager in the process.

I don’t know why every state in the nation, as well as the federal government, can’t get on board with marijuana decriminalization. Liberals shouldn’t want policies that ruin lives and continue outdated conservative ideals from decades ago. Conservatives, who claim to be all about saving tax dollars and smaller government, should conduct ONE cost benefit analysis and they would see that marijuana decriminalization makes perfect fiscal sense. Instead politicians cling to outdated arguments because it was force fed to them growing up, and rather than take a sensible approach to legislation, they just maintain the status quo no matter how expensive and illogical it is.

One of those illogical politicians is New Hampshire Attorney General Karin Eckel. She opposed the bill on behalf of the New Hampshire Department of Justice. Her reasoning? The current law is clear and enforceable, and that “the drug’s smoky (sic) smell is enough to justify a a police search of the vehicle.” The Attorney General went on to say that “it may impact the way police officers pursue crimes.” Can someone make sure that this politician actually graduated from law school? For that matter, high school? Those are the weakest arguments I have ever heard against marijuana decriminalization.

How would the new law be any less clear and enforceable. When Oregon became the first state in the nation to decriminalize personal possession of marijuana, did it result in even ONE situation that wasn’t clear and enforceable? I know when I was caught with less than an ounce of marijuana, the officer didn’t get confused as to what to do next. He wrote me a ticket, confiscated my marijuana, and went on his way. How is there even a chance that the law would be less clear and enforceable? How is that even an argument and not a delay tactic? “It may impact the way police officers pursue crimes.” No sh#t! It would change cops from incarcerating people for a harmless act to giving them a fine. It would also allow cops to focus on REAL crime, such as violent crimes. TO NEW HAMPSHIRE ATTORNEY GENERAL KARIN ECKEL, YOU ARE AN IDIOT!!!! I have included your name in the meta links, and I hope you read this article and I beg you to respond.

All of the arguments against this bill are the same false, outdated claims that have long been dis proven or dismissed by logic. Such as the “It would still be a federal crime, so anyone on federal property would be subject to arrest.” Is that the job of the State? To be a puppet for the feds? What ever happened to state sovereignty? I thought that’s one of the tenants of being a conservative? Last time I checked, New Hampshire politicians were elected by New Hampshire voters to uphold the will of New Hampshire citizens. I thought New Hampshire politicians were supposed to do what’s best for the State of New Hampshire, not fight on behalf of the federal government. I know that all of the state level politicians in New Hampshire have visions of grandeur that they will become President of the United States someday, but for now, can you idiots just do your job that you were elected to do???

Below is the proposed legislation:

HOUSE BILL 1526-FN

AN ACT decriminalizing possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.

SPONSORS: Rep. Panek, Straf 3; Rep. Tasker, Rock 1; Rep. Watrous, Merr 12; Rep. Warden, Hills 7

COMMITTEE: Criminal Justice and Public Safety

ANALYSIS

This bill provides that any person who possesses less than one ounce of marijuana shall be guilty of a violation and shall be subject to a fine of up to $100.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Explanation: Matter added to current law appears in bold italics.

Matter removed from current law appears [in brackets and struckthrough.]

Matter which is either (a) all new or (b) repealed and reenacted appears in regular type.

12-2650

04/01

STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Twelve

AN ACT decriminalizing possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.

Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:

1 New Section; Controlled Drug Act; Personal Possession of Small Amounts of Marijuana. Amend RSA 318-B by inserting after section 2-b the following new section:

318-B:2-c Personal Possession of Small Amounts of Marijuana.

I. Any person possessing less than one ounce of marijuana, including any adulterants or dilutants, for personal use, shall be guilty of a violation.

II.(a) Any person 18 years of age or older who is in possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, including any adulterants or dilutants, and who engages in any conduct prohibited under RSA 318-B:2 shall be guilty of a violation and subject to a fine not to exceed $100 and forfeiture of the marijuana.

(b) Any person under 18 years of age who is in possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, including any adulterants or dilutants, and who engages in any conduct prohibited under RSA 318-B:2 shall be guilty of a violation and subject to a fine not to exceed $100 and forfeiture of the marijuana. The offender’s parents or legal guardians shall be notified of the offense. The court may order the offender to complete an approved drug awareness program, at the offender’s expense, within one year of the date of the offense. Further, the court may order the offender to perform community service which shall be completed within one year of the date of the offense. The offender shall furnish the court with evidence of completion of a required drug awareness program or required community service. An offender who fails to complete either a required drug awareness program or community service, or both, shall be subject to a fine of $1,000.

2 Controlled Drug Act; Penalties. Amend RSA 318-B:26, II(d) to read as follows:

(d) In the case of marijuana in a quantity of less than one ounce, including any adulterants or dilutants[, or], the person shall be guilty of a violation. In the case of 5 grams or less of hashish, the person shall be guilty of a class A misdemeanor.

3 Controlled Drug Act; Penalties. Amend RSA 318-B:26, III(a) to read as follows:

(a) Controls any premises or vehicle where he or she knows a controlled drug or its analog is illegally kept or deposited, except if the controlled drug is less than one ounce of marijuana as provided in RSA 318-B:2-c;

4 Effective Date. This act shall take effect January 1, 2013.

LBAO

12-2650

12/09/11

HB 1526-FN – FISCAL NOTE

AN ACT decriminalizing possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.

FISCAL IMPACT:

The Judicial Branch, Judicial Council, and New Hampshire Association of Counties state this bill may decrease state expenditures, state revenue, and county expenditures by an indeterminable amount in FY 2013 and each year thereafter. There is no fiscal impact on local expenditures, or county and local revenue.

METHODOLOGY:

The Judicial Branch states this bill changes the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana from a class A misdemeanor to a violation, decriminalizes controlling premises or a vehicle in which less than one ounce of marijuana is found (currently this is a misdemeanor offense), provides for a fine not to exceed $100 for person 18 years of age or older in possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, and provides for an offender under the age of 18 to complete a drug awareness program and/or community service with a $1,000 fine for failure to do so. The Branch has no information to estimate how many cases would be reduced from a class A misdemeanor or how many misdemeanors would no longer be brought as a result of decriminalizing less than one ounce of marijuana found in controlling premises or a vehicle to determine the fiscal impact on expenditures but does have information on the cost for processing a violation and misdemeanors. All costs are estimated based on case weight information from the last needs assessment completed in 2005. The Branch states a violation will cost $41.92 per case in FY 2013 and $43.20 per case in FY 2014 and each year thereafter, and a class A misdemeanor will cost $59.11 per case in FY 2013 and $61.31 per case in FY 2014 and each year thereafter. For each class A misdemeanor that is reduced to a violation the cost will decrease by $17.19 in FY 2013 and $18.11 in FY 2014 and each year thereafter. For each misdemeanor that is not brought as a result of decriminalizing less than one ounce of marijuana found in controlling premises or a vehicle, costs would decrease. A misdemeanor can be either class A or class B, with the presumption being a class B misdemeanor. As noted above, a class A misdemeanor will cost $59.11 per case in FY 2013 and $61.31 per case in FY 2014 and each year thereafter, and a class B misdemeanor will cost $43.19 per case in FY 2013 and $44.54 per case in FY 2014 and each year thereafter. The Branch also states this bill may impact fine revenue as it limits the fine to $100, with the possibility of a $1,000 fine for those under 18 years of age that fail to complete a drug awareness program and/or community service. A class A misdemeanor allows for a fine up to $2,000. The Branch is not able to determine the exact decrease to revenue.

The Judicial Council states this bill will result in an indeterminable decrease in general fund expenditures. The Council states to the extent this bill results in fewer misdemeanor offenses where the right to counsel would exist, costs will decrease. The Council states if an individual is found to be indigent, the flat fee of $275 per misdemeanor is charged by a public defender or contract attorney. If an assigned counsel attorney is used the fee is $60 per hour with a cap of $1,400 for a misdemeanor charge. The Council also states there may not be additional costs associated with appeals.

The New Hampshire Association of Counties states to the extent less individuals are charged, convicted, and sentenced to incarceration in a county correctional facility, the counties may have decreased expenditures. The Association is unable to determine the number of individuals who may not be charged, convicted or incarcerated as a result of this bill to determine an exact fiscal impact. The average annual cost to incarcerate an individual in a county correctional facility is approximately $35,000. There is no impact on county revenue.

The Department of Justice states this bill will not have a fiscal impact on the Department because it is not typically involved with cases involving less than one ounce of marijuana and rarely is there an appeal filed.

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3 Comments

  1. I was charged with simple possession of less than a GRAM of marijuana and hit with a fine of over $400! It all happened so quick I am not sure if I was convicted of a class b misdemeanor or not but clearly mislead (i know it may be confusing). I find it outrageous not because it was me that was caught but the simple fact I was doing no harm to anyone else and it was a tiny bit, blows my mind I have to deal with this.

  2. nicely put… I live in Maine whre it’s Decriminalized & I hate going over to NH in fear of going to jail for a small amount of personal use….

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