Sununu signs bill to annul marijuana charges

Monitor staff
Published: 7/12/2019 6:05:03 PM
Modified: 7/12/2019 6:04:51 PM

New Hampshire residents will be able to expunge any low-level marijuana possession convictions next year, thanks to a bill signed by Gov. Chris Sununu on Friday.

House Bill 399 allows anyone who received a conviction for a small possession charge before Sept. 16, 2017, to petition the court that issued it and have it removed from his or her record.

The new law brings the past in line with the present. In 2017, state lawmakers passed a law decriminalizing the possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana – anyone caught with those amounts could be fined and have the cannabis seized, but could not face criminal charges.

But that change did not apply retroactively; previous convictions still stood.

Under the new law, those with possession convictions for amounts up to three-quarters an ounce may petition the court to extinguish the court record and arrest record.

The prosecutor may object, in which case a hearing may be held. But if the prosecutor objects, he or she must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person petitioning knowingly had more than three-quarters of an ounce – the highest legal standard possible. Failing that, or failing an objection, the annulment must move ahead.

A spokesperson for Sununu confirmed that the governor had signed the bill Friday afternoon. But for legalization advocates, getting the bill to his desk was a journey. An attempt last year was tabled in the Republican-led Senate with little discussion; this year’s bill passed both chambers unanimously.

In a statement Friday, Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, a pro-legalization lobbying group, said the bill would help “thousands” clear their names.

“HB 399 will allow these Granite Staters to have their records annulled so they can move forward in life with a clean slate,” Simon said.

The law takes effect Jan. 1, 2020.

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