In a surprise move, New Futures, a nonprofit substance abuse treatment and prevention organization, will not oppose a marijuana decriminalization bill making its way through the New Hampshire Legislature – the first time they have ever done so.
Kate Frey, the organization’s advocacy director, clarified that while her group is not actively supporting decriminalization, they will also not oppose it. Frey said legislators and stakeholders have “addressed the concerns” by putting in clauses about limiting possession by minors.
Now that it’s been a decade since decriminalization was first introduced and repeatedly shot down by either the Legislature or governor, 2017 could be the year it finally passes.
Unlike past years, no members of the state’s law enforcement community rose to oppose the bill; the only person who spoke against it was Meredith Cook, the director of the office of public policy for the Catholic Diocese of Manchester.
“We teach that our life and physical health are precious gifts,” Cook said. “We are concerned this sends the wrong message to the people of New Hampshire.”
The bill is expected to easily be approved by the House, whose members have passed it before. If it also clears the State Senate, Gov. Chris Sununu has said he would be in favor of the measure.
The bill would reduce the penalty for possessing an ounce or less of marijuana to a violation and allow offenders to pay their fines by mail.
With neighboring states Maine and Massachusetts recently legalizing marijuana for recreational use, decriminalization advocates argue New Hampshire should no longer slap harsh penalties on users caught with small amounts of marijuana.
The Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee will now vote on the bill before it heads to the full House.
(Ella Nilsen can be reached at 369-3322, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ella_nilsen.)