Pot possession: Less than a speeding ticket?
Marijuana advocates pushing to decriminalize the drug argue that young people should not have their prospects ruined because of one mistake.
It’s no secret that they consider decriminalization a half measure on the road to full legalization. A House bill now being debated in the state Senate tries to skip ahead a few miles down the road.
HB 640 would remove all criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana, handing down a $100 fine for a first offense, and just a $350 fine for third and subsequent offenses within three years. It would prohibit police from arresting someone for marijuana possession.
This wouldn’t give teenagers a second chance. It would turn marijuana possession into a speeding ticket. Actually, it would be less serious. If you get too many speeding tickets, you lose your license.
Law enforcement was not in on the negotiations that produced this weak House bill. Police organizations oppose it.
Gov. Chris Sununu has said he would support a decriminalization bill, a break from his predecessors. But HB 640 as it stands would represent de facto legalization. It passed the House overwhelmingly, but needs a lot of work.
First-time possession has already been decriminalized in practice. The Legislature last year reduced possession of under an ounce of pot to a misdemeanor, with a fine of $350. Without an overhaul, HB 640 would be marijuana legalization by another name.