After many years of unsuccessful efforts by NH legislators who are Democrats, Republicans and Independents... the NH House and Senate have finally passed a marijuana possession decriminalization Bill that is now awaiting the Governor's signature. Governor Sununu has not yet signed the Bill but has said he will do so.
The Marijuana Decriminalization Bill
New Hampshire House Bill 640-FN, as amended by a Senate amendment on May 7, 2017, went to the Governor for his signature on June 1. Here is the text of the Amended Bill.
This bill decriminalizes possession of less than 3/4 ounce of marijuana, or possession of a "personal-use amount of a regulated marijuana-infused product" (e.g., edibles), as long as the edible meets these requirements:
- the edible was purchased in a State where marijuana sales to adults are legal and regulated under state law
- stored in its original, child-resistant, labeled packaging (but its not sold that way in other States!)
- contains no more than 300mg of THC
18-20 Year Olds Treated Differently than 21 and Over
Interestingly, the law decriminalizes possession of regular marijuana for those 18 and older. But for edibles, you have to be 21 or older to avoid prosecution for a misdemeanor. This might make sense. Teenagers are an easy target for edibles, easier to ingest than smoking or vaping.
Decriminalization Does Not Mean Legal
It's important to understand that decriminalization does not mean "legal". Possession of marijuana and edibles continues to be illegal under NH law. Police officers can stop and detain you if they see, smell, or otherwise suspect marijuana possession. Police officers can stop, detain and arrest vehicle drivers if they see, smell or otherwise suspect marijuana possession. The new fine for possession of marijuana is $100 (it used to be $350).
No Arrests Allowed
This new law prohibits police officers from making an arrest for possession of marijuana. Instead, they have to use a summons.
Will Marijuana-Possessing Drivers Still Become Convicted Criminals and Lose Their License?
RSA 265-a:43 makes it a misdemeanor to possess marijuana in "any part of a vehicle". This offense carries a mandatory minimum license suspension of 60 days, "and at the discretion of the court for a period not to exceed 2 years." However, the new Bill extends the decriminalization provisions to drivers who possess marijuana. Make sure you have less than 3/4 ounce in your car, and/or follow the rules applying to edibles, or you can still lose your license for 60 days or more and become a convicted criminal.
When Does the Law Become Effective?
The law "shall take effect 60 days after its passage." So, 60 days after the Governor signs it. So much for lighting up during the summer of 2017...
Don't Drive Under the Influence of Marijuana
The new Bill makes clear that people can still be prosecuted for driving under the influence of marijuana, which is a misdemeanor. Be careful out there!