CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire moved a step closer to joining the rest of New England in decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.
The New Hampshire House on Thursday voted to remove criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of the drug. The bill now goes to Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, who plans to sign it. The bill passed the House without debate.
The House originally approved changing possession of up to an ounce of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a violation-level office. The Senate changed that to three-quarters of an ounce, and the House agreed to the change.
Supporters argue that the change will ensure young people’s lives aren’t ruined by getting caught with marijuana. Opponents have argued that decriminalization sends the wrong message as the state battles a drug crisis.
The legislation makes possessing the marijuana or five grams of hashish or less a violation-level offense with a fine of up to $300 for adults. Minors caught with either would be subject to a delinquency petition. Someone can be charged with a misdemeanor, if they are found with marijuana for a fourth time within three years.
It says police cannot arrest someone for a marijuana violation. Any money collected from fines under the law will go into a fund aimed at alcohol and drug abuse prevention and treatment.
The House’s action comes a little after a week since Vermont Republican Gov. Phil Scott vetoed a bill that would have legalized marijuana in that state. Scott said he thinks it still could be possible to pass a bill. He said negotiations have been taking place to address his concerns with the one he vetoed.
Maine and Massachusetts’ voters approved legalization in ballot measures last year.