New Hampshire officially decriminalized small amounts of cannabis today, September 16, 2017. Now before you go light up while you wait for the bus, make sure you understand what this means. Decriminalization and legalization of cannabis are very different things. With the new law, people caught with small amounts of cannabis (under one ounce is considered a misdemeanor in New Hampshire) will still have it seized and they will be charged. The key differences now are the degree of the charge as well as the fact that the person will most likely not get arrested.
“Personal use amounts of regulated cannabis-infused products have to be in their original, sealed, child-proof packaging. Possessing cannabis-infused products that are not from a state-regulated program is still a crime (misdemeanor or felony) no matter how much one has in their possession. The age of the person can change how the charges are handled. If someone over 18 and under 21 years of age possesses a marijuana-infused product, it is a misdemeanor. Under the age of 18, any marijuana can result in a delinquency petition filed in family court.”
- Chief Andrew Shagoury, President N.H. Association of Chiefs of Police
Persons over age 21 will likely just face a fine. However, an arrest is still an option in certain circumstances. For instance, if a person is caught with more than the misdemeanor limit they will likely be arrested and charged with a felony, just as before. Also, if they possess anything outside of the scope of this law, which essentially only covers cannabis flower and certain extracts, they will still face more corporal punishments as before. Examples of substances not covered by this law include hash and cannabis-infused edibles.
So there it is, possessing cannabis is still illegal in New Hampshire, make no mistake, but they are taking steps to reduce the punishment associated with this non-violent and increasingly popular recreational substance. And while it isn’t exactly something to write home about just yet, it is safe to say that the ‘Live Free or Die’ state got a little bit freer today.