By: Timothy C. Ayer
New Hampshire is soon to enjoy relaxed laws governing the possession of
marijuana. Under a bill signed into law by Gov. Sununu this week, several
types of marijuana possession have been reduced from criminal misdemeanors
to violations (like a traffic ticket). Beginning in mid-September, possession
of less than ¾ of an ounce of marijuana, 5 grams or less of hashish,
and (if you are 21 or older) personal use amounts of marijuana-infused
products will be punishable as violations, not crimes. People convicted
of these violations will generally only face a fine of $100 to $300.
New Hampshire has recognized the benefits that this new law will provide
to its citizens, including keeping peoples’ criminal records clean,
addressing inequalities in the justice system, and a focus on treatment,
rather than punishment. To help achieve these goals, the police can no
longer arrest you for violations of these new laws.
The new law has its limits, though. It only reduces the level of “possession”
offenses, not purchase and sales offenses. It also does not affect the
state’s authority to prosecute marijuana-related DUIs. While it
reduces the penalties for possession of small amounts, a fourth violation
in three years is again punishable as a class B misdemeanor.
Anyone under 18 who is found in possession of a small amount of marijuana,
hashish, or marijuana-infused products may still be prosecuted as delinquents.
Police can still demand identification if they find you in possession
of even a small amount of marijuana. And remember: Although it is only
punishable by small fines, marijuana possession is not yet legal.
Most importantly, marijuana possession is still illegal federally, and
nothing the state of New Hampshire does can affect the federal government’s
authority to prosecute possession, even small amounts. And although the
federal government has historically respected states’ experiments
in legalization, the current administration has been vocal that it may
cease this practice.
If you have any questions about your liabilities or rights under this new
law, you should contact an attorney. The attorneys at Shaheen & Gordon
have years of experience, and our attorneys can provide guidance to help
you navigate this new and evolving legal landscape.