Now in Effect: New Hampshire Law Decriminalizes Marijuana Possession

CONCORD, N.H. (Sept. 18, 2017) – On Saturday, a law decriminalizing marijuana possession in New Hampshire went into effect. This takes another step toward nullifying the unconstitutional drug war in the Live Free or Die State.

Rep. Robert Cushing (D-Hampton) introduced House Bill 640 (HB640) along with 11 bipartisan co-sponsors. The legislation eliminates criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession by “allowing offenders to pay fines by mail will result in less time and resources spent on such cases, allowing police and courts to spend more time and resources dealing with serious crimes.”

The New Hampshire Senate approved HB640 by a 17-6 margin on May 11. The House had previously approved the measure by a 318-36 margin. After the House approved the Senate amendment, Gov. Sununu signed HB640 into law. It went into effect Sept. 16.

HB640 changes possession “of 3/4 ounce or less of marijuana or 5 grams or less of hashish” from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil infraction punishable by “a minimum of $350 for a first offense and $500 for a second or subsequent offense.” Any New Hampshire resident possessing “more than 3/4 ounce of marijuana or more than 5 grams of hashish” will now be charged with a criminal misdemeanor, rather than a felony.

“Currently, a criminal penalty accompanying a conviction for first-time possession of a small amount of marijuana can lead to a lifetime of hard consequences,” Rep. Cushing said in a Seacoast Online report. “These may include denial of student financial aid, housing, employment and professional licenses.”

This is the third law dealing with cannabis to go into effect in New Hampshire this year, further nullifying federal prohibition in effect. Two other measures expanded patient access to medical marijuan. HB157 added chronic pain while HB160 added post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of qualifying conditions.

EFFECT ON FEDERAL PROHIBITION

HB640, along with New Hampshire’s medical marijuana program, removes a layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition remains in place.

Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

While state law does not alter federal law, it takes a step toward nullifying in effect the federal ban. FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By easing state prohibition, New Hampshire essentially sweeps away part of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

A GROWING MOVEMENT

Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska, California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts have all legalized marijuana for recreational or medical use. With more than two-dozen states allowing cannabis for medical use as well, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more.

Decriminalization of marijuana and expansion of medical marijuana laws in New Hampshire demonstrates another important reality. Once a state puts laws in place legalizing marijuana, it tends to eventually expand. As the state tears down some barriers, markets develop and demand expands. That creates pressure to further relax state law. These bills represent more steps forward for patients seeking alternative treatments and a further erosion of unconstitutional federal marijuana prohibition.

“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.

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