N.H. Senate Weighs Decriminalization Of Marijuana

Apr 7, 2015

Lt. John Encarnacao of the State Police's narcotics unit holds up a half-an-ounce of marijuana while testifying against the decriminalization bill on Tuesday stressing that this is no little amount.
Credit Paige Sutherland/NHPR

A bill aimed to decriminalize marijuana in New Hampshire is now being considering by the state Senate.

Under the measure, those found with a half an ounce of marijuana or less would receive a $100 fine rather than be charged with a crime. Currently all other New England states have similar laws already on the books.

But in New Hampshire no decriminalization bill has ever passed the Senate, and Governor Maggie Hassan said if it passes she would veto it.

The bill’s main sponsor, Republican Adam Schroadter of Newmarket, told the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday that a person being caught with a limited amount of marijuana does not deserve a criminal record, adding that it could prevent someone from getting a job or getting into college.

Representative Joseph Lachance of Manchester testified that cracking down on marijuana possession costs the state millions.

“The estimated cost in New Hampshire is $6,526,364 dollars enforcing marijuana laws and that would encompass police, courts, the criminal justice, etc,” Lachance said.

But Lieutenant John Encarnacao of the State Police’s Narcotic unit, who showed the committee what a half an ounce looked like, argued that it is no little amount.  

“We are not talking about a small, minute amount of marijuana, we are talking about enough to roll 28 joints, that is a lot of marijuana, that is enough to get 28 people high,” he said.

Advocates testifying against the bill also stressed that marijuana is a gateway to much harder drugs like cocaine and heroin.