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Drug charges: Small amount of pot will be decriminalized

New Hampshire is the only state in this region of the country that still provides a criminal penalty for possession of a small amount of marijuana. An offender who is hit with drug charges for marijuana can still get a stiff fine and up to one year of imprisonment on a possession of an ounce or less of pot. However, signs today point to the reversal of that policy due to the approval by both houses of the state legislature for a decriminalization bill.

Critically, the governor of New Hampshire has stated that he will sign the bill. The Senate approved a bill already approved by the House for the decriminalization of pot, which changes the criminal offense to a violation only. The bill now goes back to the House for final touches.

It appears that the Senate approved a bill that applies to possession of 3/4 of an ounce, whereas the House had approved a bill applying to one ounce or less. The bill was seen to have the practical effect of allowing law enforcement authorities to concentrate on the vastly more important issues dealing with heroin, opioids and fentanyl. These drugs are involved in a nationwide epidemic that includes increased risks of death from overdoses.

The elimination of drug charges for a small amount of marijuana in New Hampshire will bring the state into line with the policies of all of the other states in the New England region of the country. Some legislators described the change as setting up a path for legalization eventually in the state. For those who have prior convictions of a small amount that still appear as a crime on their records, it is recommended that they consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to see if a remedy exists to clean up their record.

Source: Concord, NH Patch, "Sununu Says He'll Sign Marijuana Decrim Bill", Tony Schinella, May 11, 2017

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