New Hampshire House Decriminalizes Marijuana

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

Sort of.

New Hampshire residents could possess one-quarter ounce or less of marijuana without facing jail under a bill headed to the state Senate.

The House voted 193-141 Tuesday to decriminalize the small amount of the drug, making possessing it a violation subject to a $200 fine. Under current law, possessing that amount could mean spending a year in jail and paying a $2,000 fine.

Supporters argued current law costs youths who experiment with the drug all chances at receiving financial aid to attend college. They said it wasn’t fair to penalize them for life for a youthful mistake.

Windham Republican Jason Bedrick said he doesn’t advocate using marijuana, but that wasn’t the issue.

“The question is whether a teenager making a stupid decision should face a year in prison and loss of all funding for college,” said Bedrick.

That’s certainly a better approach than Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who despite admitting he smoked marijuana himself when he was younger now says, “I feel that our laws are good in Florida. They were thoughtfully put in place.”

Amazing how ready these politicians are to throw someone’s future away for the same choices they themselves made at the same age.

(I’m also not sure how that statement applies to Crist’s acknowledgment that the drug laws failed in Richard Paey’s case.)

Getting back to New Hampshire, not everyone is happy:

Whitefield Republican John Tholl, police chief in Dalton, said reducing the penalty in the selective circumstance to little more than a parking ticket could lead to trouble for youths confused by the law’s distinctions between possession, transporting and sale.

“The controlled drug statute is complex and involved,” he said.

“For example, if someone has a quarter ounce in his possession and gives some to a buddy, he can be arrested and charged for sale and a felony,” said Tholl. “If we send a message to young people that a quarter ounce is not big deal, they’re going to ignore the potential problems coming.

Well here’s a crazy idea. Why not show some discretion, then, and not arrest and charge that kid in the first place? If he’s sharing a quarter ounce with his buddy, he’s pretty clearly not a major dealer, right?

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14 Responses to “New Hampshire House Decriminalizes Marijuana”

  1. #1 |  ZappaCrappa | 

    It’s a start.

    “For example, if someone has a quarter ounce in his possession and gives some to a buddy, he can be arrested and charged for sale and a felony,” said Tholl. ”

    LOL…only a politician can equate “give” to = “sale” So the next time Whitefield Republican John Tholl, police chief in Dalton’s wife “gives” him a piece…let’s arrest her for prostitution and him for soliticitation….its the same premise….right?

  2. #2 |  Dave Hummels | 

    Oh well, baby steps still represent progress. Still, the fact that this move is still controversial (as the 193 to 141 victory suggests) annoys the hell out of me. Marijuana is a rather benign substance that is almost certainly not physically addictive. Psychological addiction may be another matter, but I don’t think “pot addicts”–or any addicts–represent an existential threat to our society. I would much rather interact with a pot head than an irrational, ill-tempered drunk.

  3. #3 |  Benjamin | 

    If you’ll recall, the city of Columbia, MO had passed an ordinance almost identical to this one about three years ago (my timing may be off).

    In retaliation, a state representative tried to ban all high school athletic teams from his district from playing in Columbia (where the state finals are held for all athletics).

    I would expect some of the same in New Hampshire.

  4. #4 |  Billy Beck | 

    “I feel that our laws are good in Florida. They were thoughtfully put in place.”

    He “feels” about something that he judges “thoughtful”.

    Always look to the language, children. That way, you can always see the imbeciles.

  5. #5 |  Sithmonkey | 

    Oh well, baby steps still represent progress.

    And that’s probably the most we can hope for in most cases…but I can’t see any other way of legalizing marijuana happening, other than the states incrementally lifting the ban and thumbing their noses at the Feds. The feds might threaten to withhold federal funds, but I bet with their prisons being a bit emptier of non-violent cheeba heads, the state will have more resources available to compensate…

    Here’s what’s probably a simplistic and maybe stupid question…but I’m no legal expert and it’s been gnawing at my craw…

    If a state legalizes and regulates marijuana by requiring that any marijuana sold, distributed, etc. in the state must be grown in the state, would they be able to get around the Feds and the Commerce Clause?

  6. #6 |  Celeste | 

    Sithmonkey – not after Gonzales v Raich. The Supremes decided that marijuana legally grown in-state, used in-state, and not even sold still violated the Commerce clause. Keeping power in the hands of the feds was more important than letting Raich and others like her have access to the pain relief they needed.

  7. #7 |  Salvo | 

    Ahhh, Raich, the decision that exposed Scalia as the hack that he is. “Why yes, I believe in Federalism and states rights, except only for things that involve constituencies for GOP causes, like gun rights(Lopez) and abortion. Those dirty hippies can rot in jail for all I care”.

    only a politician can equate “give” to = “sale”

    Actually, my understanding is that the law does equate giving to selling. More specifically, since most laws state that “delivery” triggers the dealer aspect, all one has to do is share the goods, and you’re considered a dealer.

    In law school I wrote an appellate brief on behalf of a meth user who made the drug with his wife, and then partook of it. He never sold it, and only made quantities small enough for personal use. The prosecutor even stipulated to that.

    He was still sentenced as a dealer, receiving about a 5 year uptick in his sentence, because the law said the dealer statute kicks in when you “deliver” the drug to another person. Because the drug probably passed from his hands, to her hands, that was enough. I attacked this in the brief. The appellate court just laughed, and affirmed the sentence.

  8. #8 |  Scooby | 

    Salvo,
    I guess you weren’t in a community property state?

  9. #9 |  pris | 

    I heard this morning that if the bill gets past the NH Senate, Governor Lynch will not sign the bill.

  10. #10 |  roy | 

    Although I favor drug legalization — literally heroin on the shelves at Wal-Mart — I’m always a little skeptical of the “same choices they themselves made at the same age” criticism of politicians.

    Should politicians who used to drive too fast oppose enforcing speed limits? Should one who got into a bar fight oppose assault prosecutions? Should libertarian politicians who attended public schools oppose cutting education spending?

  11. #11 |  GU | 

    “Well here’s a crazy idea. Why not show some discretion, then, and not arrest and charge that kid in the first place? If he’s sharing a quarter ounce with his buddy, he’s pretty clearly not a major dealer, right?”

    The MENACE must be quashed at all costs!!!!!!!!!

  12. #12 |  Jay | 

    Here’s a question: Will the decriminalization apply retroactively? Will those who got busted with a couple of Js up to a quarter bag have their records expunged or be released from jail (not sure if anyone went to jail, but probably)? Will the state of NH pay me back for the reconstructive surgery I needed after failing to dive head first over a 4-foot fence while running from the cops because I had a dime bag of weed on me? I still got away … barely.* :)

    *Note: it is incredibly daft to try to leap over fence when stoned; I would not recommend it.

  13. #13 |  the great sardino | 

    I THINK IM GOING TO SMOKE SOME WEED RIGHT NOW! WE ARE IN A REALLY BAD ECONOMY. TAX US POT HEADS WE WILL PAY THE TAX JUST LEAVE US ALONE. I DO NOT THINK THE GOV.LYNCH WILL SIGN THIS BILL EITHER. I ALSO THINK THEY SHOULD MAKE HOOKERS LEAGAL THEN LIFE WOULD BE GRAND:)

  14. #14 |  The Agitator » Blog Archive » “Concern” | 

    [...] draconian drug laws. Months later he’s under consideration for McCain’s VP slot, and all is hunky-dory. Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  [...]

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