The New Hampshire House took a big step in the right direction last night, voting to approve a measure that will decriminalize up to an ounce of marijuana, with a maximum punishment of a fine of $100. Currently, possession of an ounce carries up to a year in jail and $2,000. The bill also makes the cultivation of up to six plants a misdemeanor charge instead of a felony charge.
”With a strong vote today we can send a powerful message that the time has finally come to reduce New Hampshire’s excessive penalties,” said Rep. Adam Schroadter, the bill’s Republican sponsor.
“Why waste limited law enforcement resources on marijuana possession?” Schroadter said to his colleagues yesterday evening before the vote. “Regardless of what you think about pot or pot legalization, I think we can all agree that our current penalties are excessively harsh.”
House Bill 1625 passed with a 215-92 bipartisan majority. That’s notable in part because Republican New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan has repeatedly said she does not support lessening marijuana penalties in her state as it “sends the wrong message”.
But even lawmakers on her side of the political aisle say she is the one sending the wrong message.
”We believe our taxpayer dollars would be better spent addressing crimes like murder, rape and theft,” Republican state Rep. Keith Murphy told Boston.com. ”Gov. Hassan should explain to the people of New Hampshire why she believes they deserve up to a year in jail for simple marijuana possession.”
Of those opposed was clueless state Rep. Shawn Jasper, who said an ounce of pot was too much because it was the equivalent of 50 or 60 joints which he apparently assumes someone would smoke all at once (not that it should matter if that was the case.
‘That’s like carrying around two 30-packs of beer for personal consumption,” Jasper said, ignoring the fact that it’s completely legal to walk around with two 30-packs of beer for personal consumption in his state.
According to statistics from one New Hampshire state representative, nearly 90 percent of New Hampshire’s 2,800 marijuana arrests in 2010 were for simple possession. Currently, New Hampshire is the only New England state that hasn’t decriminalized pot to some degree or another.