MJ News: NH-Bill To Decrease Pot Fines Is Stalled
Contributed by skamikaze
on Thursday, March 27 @ 20:08:06 UTC
New Hampshire -- When the New Hampshire House of
Representatives voted to decriminalize the possession of small amounts
of marijuana, it was the first time the legislative body approved
reducing the penalty for having pot.
the bill is unlikely to become law. It appears to have little support
in the Senate, and Governor John Lynch has said he'd veto the bill if
it reaches his desk because it sends the wrong message to the state's
young people about the dangers of drugs.
"Our representatives in the House did the
right thing for New Hampshire - and especially for New Hampshire's
young people," Matt Simon, executive director of the New Hampshire
Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy, said last week. "It's time
for the Senate to finish the work we've started here and bring some
sanity to our marijuana sentencing policies."
bill would make the possession of a quarter of an ounce or less of
marijuana a civil violation that would carry a maximum $200 fine,
instead of a criminal misdemeanor that may result in up to a year in
jail and fines of up to $2,500.
the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee recommended
against passage of the law, the bill passed the full House, 193 to 141,
on March 18.
In Massachusetts, two
bills are before the Legislature that would decriminalize the
possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, and another bill would
allow the drug to be used for medical reasons.
Representative Barney Frank said last week that he intends to file a
bill in the US House to legalize "small amounts" of marijuana.
was more surprised when the New Hampshire House passed the bill than
Jeffrey Fontas, the 21-year-old Democrat from Nashua who cosponsored
"Many people told
us that it wouldn't pass, but it did. I think it was because of the way
we framed the argument. Mistakes early in life, like a possession
charge, can be devastating to the futures of our young people," he
said, adding that a single drug arrest can lead to the loss of a
college scholarship, the ability to serve in the military, and the
chance to qualify for subsidized housing and food stamps.
David Welch, a Republican from Kingston and a member of the House
Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee who voted in favor of the
bill, said it's a generational issue.
"I think if all the House members were under 30, it would be a slam dunk."
who is serving his eleventh term in the House, said he has never used
drugs, "except aspirin," and feels there are a lot more dangerous
products on the market: alcohol and cigarettes, for instance.
think alcohol abuse does a lot more damage. . . . Not only that, but we
tax alcohol. It's not as if it's a large amount of marijuana we're
talking about here. It's only enough to make seven or eight
cigarettes," he said. "People - young people in particular - do stupid
things, and I don't think they should be penalized for life."
Fontas said he is not disheartened by a lack of support for the bill in the Senate.
so-called experts said the bill didn't have a chance in the House, but
many members voted for it after they heard what we had to say. Who
knows what might happen in the Senate if we have another open
discussion of the issue?"
Note: Little support from Senate, governor.
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Author: Tom Long, Globe Correspondent
Published: March 27, 2008
Copyright: 2008 Globe Newspaper Company
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