NH governor signs marijuana decriminalization bill

NH governor signs marijuana decriminalization bill
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New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) has signed a new law decriminalizing marijuana, making the Granite State the 22nd in the nation to eliminate the possibility of jail time for those convicted of simple possession.

The measure passed the Republican-led legislature with huge majorities in May and June. When it takes effect in about two months, the new law will reduce fines for possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana from $2,000 to just $100 for a first or second offense.

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New Hampshire is the last state in New England to drop marijuana possession from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil offense. The legislature has considered several decriminalization bills before, but this year was the first time the state Senate took up a version passed by the House.

“There is no good reason to continue arresting and prosecuting people for marijuana possession,” said Matt Simon, who oversees state legislative policy in New England states for the Marijuana Policy Project. “This is a big step toward a more sensible marijuana policy for New Hampshire.”

Voters in Maine and Massachusetts have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, and Vermont legislators are considering their own legalization effort — though a legalization bill stalled in a special session earlier this year. Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut have all passed decriminalization laws.

Marijuana is legal for recreational purposes in Washington state, Oregon, Alaska, Colorado, Nevada and the District of Columbia. In coming months, legalization will go into effect in Maine and Massachusetts, as well as California, where regulators are scrambling to put finishing touches on new rules to govern the nascent industry.

Both red states and blue states have moved to decriminalize marijuana, including states as varied as Delaware, Illinois, Mississippi and Nebraska.