(Concord, NH)  - The New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee has approved a bill 12-3 that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The measure will now go to the full House for a vote. “Nobody should face time in jail simply for possessing a small amount of marijuana,” said Matt Simon, Goffstown-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “We’re glad the committee members agreed, and we hope the rest of their colleagues in the legislature will, too. This is a commonsense reform that is long overdue.”

HB 618, sponsored by Rep. Adam Schroadter (R-Newmarket) and a bipartisan group of seven co-sponsors, would make possession of up to one-half ounce of marijuana punishable by a civil fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and $500 for third or subsequent offenses. Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000. New Hampshire is the only state in New England that treats simple marijuana possession as a criminal offense with the potential for jail time.

The House passed a nearly identical bill last year by a vote of 215-92, but the Senate refused to consider it.

“Most voters do not think the state should be in the business of doling out criminal records to every person found in possession of marijuana,” said Rep. Adam Schroadter. “We’re talking about people facing potentially life-altering punishments simply for using a substance that is less harmful than alcohol. Hopefully, legislators will take this opportunity to bring our state laws into line with the values and opinions of state voters.”

Three out of five adults in New Hampshire (61%) support removing criminal penalties for marijuana possession, according to a WMUR Granite State Poll released in April 2014. Only 24% said they were opposed.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have removed the threat of jail for simple marijuana possession.

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