New Hampshire Decriminalizes Simple Marijuana Possession, Foundation to Nullify Federal Prohibition

By Shane Trejo

A bill to decriminalize marijuana possession was signed into law by Gov. John Sununu on Tuesday. This represents a step towards nullifying the unconstitutional drug war in the Live Free or Die State.

Along with 11 bipartisan co-sponsors, Rep. Robert Cushing (D-Hampton) introduced House Bill 640 (HB640) to end 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 an amended version of HB640 on May 11 by a 17-6 margin. Previously, the New Hampshire House voted to approve HB640 on Mar. 8 by a 318-36 margin. The House concurred with the amended version of the legislation, and Gov. Sununu signed it into law on July 20.

“The governor deserves credit for his steadfast support of this commonsense reform,” Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project said. “Unlike his predecessors, who opposed similar proposals, Gov. Sununu appears to understand that ‘Live Free or Die’ is more than just a motto on a license plate.”

In the final approved version of the bill, HB640 takes 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” would 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.”

Now that marijuana decriminalization has been signed into law, it will mean that fewer New Hampshire residents will get ensnared by the cruel policies of the failed war on drugs.

LEGALITY

The federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970 prohibits all of this behavior. 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.

Decriminalization of marijuana in New Hampshire removes a layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition will remain on the books.

FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By mostly ending state prohibition, New Hampshire essentially sweeps away most 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

New Hampshire joins a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition, and nullifying it in practice. Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska have already legalized recreational cannabis with California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts set to join them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization were passed in those states earlier this month.

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.

“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.

WHAT’S NEXT?

HB640 will go into effect in the state of New Hampshire on Sept. 16, 2017.

Shane Trejo writes for the Tenth Amendment Center, where this article first appeared.

Image Credit: Pixabay

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