CONCORD, N.H. — A bill to decriminalize marijuana possession under one-half ounce is flying high into the House with an endorsement by the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

First offenses would be violations punishable by a $250 fine and the second would be $500. Subsequent offenses would be subject to a year of jail time and a $1,000 fine. Offenders under 21 could also be ordered to take a drug awareness program.

Possession of that amount is currently a misdemeanor punishable by a $2,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

Fourteen other states have decriminalized marijuana, according to the National Organization for the reform of Marijuana Laws, including Massachusetts, Maine and Connecticut.

Rep. Mark Warden, R-Manchester, the bill’s co-sponsor, said decriminalizing marijuana makes financial sense, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader.

“Taxing and regulating marijuana would lead to an increase in revenues into state coffers, allowing for reduction of taxes elsewhere or adding to the Rainy Day Fund,” he said.

“Tax receipts would far surpass regulatory and enforcement costs, as we see today with sales of tobacco and alcohol. People in the Live Free or Die state should be free to engage in activities they enjoy, as long as they are not harming others or infringing on others’ rights.”

The committee supports decriminalizing marijuana, but recommended killing a second bill to legalize the sale and purchase of marijuana.

A third bill would legalize the growing of industrial hemp.


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