New Hampshire was the only holdout left in New England maintaining strict legal rules on marijuana possession. Maine and Massachusetts are fully recreational now and the rest of New England is decriminalized.
With 22 states now on the map that have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, what is the rest of the country waiting for? Europe is also going through the transition and so is Australia and New Zealand. Could this movement towards more logical thinking about cannabis do more than just unify the New England region of the United States?
New Hampshire just took another step in ensuring its state motto — “live free or die” — is true for marijuana.
On Tuesday, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill that decriminalized pot. Previously, simple marijuana possession was punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000. The bill eliminates the possibility of prison time for possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana, and forbids police from arresting anyone solely for low-level marijuana possession.
For anyone 18 years or older, low-level possession will now carry a civil penalty of $100 for a first offense, with increasing fines — but no prison time — for repeated offenses within three years of the first offense. The money raised from fines will go to programs that target drug addiction.
The law will take effect within 60 days.
Sununu’s signature makes New Hampshire the 22nd state to decriminalize marijuana. With it, all of New England has decriminalized or legalized pot. Here’s how the national map looks now:
There’s a difference between legalization and decriminalization: Legalization removes all penalties for marijuana possession below a certain threshold (usually a few ounces of pot), and it typically — although not in Washington, DC — allows the sales of marijuana for recreational purposes. Decriminalization generally removes incarceration and more stringent penalties for pot possession, but it often leaves a fine in place. Ordinarily, public use remains prohibited under both legalization and decriminalization.
Sununu also signed a bill that creates a commission to study marijuana legalization. If New Hampshire takes up that possibility, it would join the eight other states that have already legalized cannabis.