Senate in "Live Free or Die" NH kills common-sense bill on voice vote despite House approval and overwhelming constituent support
CONCORD, NH — “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire won’t be joining several of their New England neighbors in decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana after the state Senate voted Thursday to kill a bill some senators called “deeply flawed.”
Introduced by Re. Kyle Tasker, House Bill 621 would have decriminalized the possession of up to a quarter ounce of marijuana, replacing jail time with a maximum fine of $200.
The bill passed the House in March on 214-115 vote. The Senate Judiciary Committee gave it a negative recommendation in April, and now the full Senate has killed it on a voice vote.
Under an amended version of the original bill passed by the House, possession of under a quarter ounce of marijuana would have resulted in a fine of up to$200. The original version of the bill would have decriminalized up to one ounce of marijuana with a fine of up to $100. The bill would also require those 18 and under to attend drug rehabilitation classes or face a $1,000 fine.
Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and $2,000 in fines.
The bill was too lenient, opponents claimed. Sen. Donna Soucy (D-Manchester) told the Associated Press the bill made punishments for pot possession more lenient than those for alcohol or tobacco, that the House version of the bill had no age parameters, and that there were no increased penalties for repeat offenders.
Last year, the House of Representatives narrowly passed a similar proposal. However, the measure failed to receive Senate support because it was opposed by ex-Gov. John Lynch.
The Senate voted without debate to kill the bill, which had passed the House by only one vote.
While Gov. Maggie Hassan has expressed support of legalizing medical marijuana in New Hampshire, she has said that she is not in favor of decriminalization.
Elsewhere in New England, marijuana possession has been decriminalized in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Vermont is also considering a marijuana decriminalization bill this year.
Marijuana decriminalization or legalization bills have been introduced in nearly two dozen states this year, following voter approval of marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado last November.