New Hampshire House Considering Decriminalizing Marijuana

New Hampshire’s House is considering decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults — seven months after Gov. John Lynch vetoed a bill that would have legalized medical use of the drug.

Lynch also opposes the new House bill to allow adults to possess one-quarter ounce or less of the substance; the bill does not address medical use. The House is scheduled to vote on the measure Wednesday.

Anyone under age 18 caught with one-quarter ounce or less would be subject to a $200 fine. The youth’s parents would be notified and he or she would have to complete a drug awareness program and community service within one year of the violation. Failing to comply would result in a $1,000 fine.

The bill also would decriminalize transporting less than one-quarter ounce of marijuana.

Decriminalizing marijuana has been debated for years but gained some steam in the Legislature after Democrats took control in 2006.

The House passed a bill in 2008 that made possession of up to one-quarter ounce of marijuana a misdemeanor carrying a $200 fine instead of a misdemeanor that could have resulted in a sentence of up to a year in jail and fines up to $2,000. The bill did not make an exception for minors. The Senate killed it after Lynch said he would veto it for sending the wrong message to youth.

Last year, the House killed a decriminalization bill and instead approved legislation to narrow the focus to use by severely ill people. That bill would have established three nonprofit “compassion centers” to dispense 2 ounces of marijuana every 10 days to severely ill people whose doctors approved the drug’s use. The state would have licensed the centers and issued identification cards to their staff, approved patients and caregivers.

In vetoing the bill, Lynch cited concerns over distribution and cultivation and the potential for abuse. He also said the bill did not clearly restrict marijuana use to people suffering severe pain, seizures of nausea.

The House overrode the veto, but the Senate fell two votes short and the bill died.

Bill supporters vowed to bring it back in 2011. In the meantime, state Rep. Steven Lindsey, a Keene Democrat, proposed the pending decriminalization measure.

Fourteen states have medical marijuana laws and 13 have decriminalization laws, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

– Article from WBZTV on March 2, 2010.

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