A bill to decriminalize a person’s first two marijuana possessions under one-half ounce passes by a thread by the New Hampshire House. Republican Speaker Bill O’Brien abstained from voting, allowing the bill to squeak by Thursday with a 162-161 vote. However, the House voted an outstanding 228-89 to kill a second bill to legalize and regulate the drug.
Under the decriminalization bill, first offenses would be violations punishable by a $250 fine. The second would be $500. Subsequent offenses would be misdemeanors subject to a year of jail time and a $1,000 fine. Offenders under 21 could also be ordered to take a drug awareness program. All offenses are currently misdemeanors punishable by up to a $2,000 fine and a year in jail.
The bill now goes to the Senate. If it passes, Gov. John Lynch has promised to veto the measure. “Marijuana is a controlled drug that remains illegal under federal law. New Hampshire parents are working to keep their kids away from marijuana and other drugs. We should not make the jobs of parents – or law enforcement – harder by sending a false message that some marijuana use is acceptable,” Lynch spokesman Colin Manning said after the vote.