Understand the Marijuana Decriminalization Law
In light of the recent passage and implementation of RSA 318-B:2-c, also known as New Hampshire's marijuana decriminalization law, New Futures finds it critically important to inform New Hampshire residents of what this RSA does in regards to drug policy. Please read the letter below that was issued by the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police to the general public regarding the law change and how it will be implemented by law enforcement. The letter is also attached below in PDF format for your convenience to help educate others about this policy.
It is critically important to note that the passage of RSA 318-B:2-c does not, by any means, make marijuana in the leaf form or marijuana extracts/edibles/substances legal in New Hampshire. New Futures will continue to monitor this RSA as well as continue encourage all New Hampshire residents to opt-in to living healthy lifestyles free of all substances including marijuana. Click here for New Futures statement on this policy.
September 16, 2017 is the effective date of the law decriminalizing certain amounts of marijuana and some marijuana related products under RSA 318-B:2-c. There is a difference between decriminalization and legalization. Marijuana will still be illegal after that date. Anyone possessing any amount of it can still expect that it will be seized and they would be charged. The difference will primarily be how the charges would be handled.
A person will still be charged but not arrested under most but not all circumstances. A couple of ways that an arrest could occur is if they don’t identify themselves; possess over the allowed personal use amount of marijuana, hashish, or regulated marijuana-infused product; or possess a product that is not covered in the new definition of marijuana that applies only to this law.
“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.
Changes to the penalties are not the biggest issue for implementation. Adapting to the new penalty is the easy part. The difficult part is this law mandates a complex new process to handle this one charge differently than any other in any other law. That means creating a new process for departments and the courts. We are working with the Department of Justice and the District Courts to address the challenges and questions that have come up. The 60 day effective date has made it very difficult to have everything prepared to implement the complex process and requirements such as complaint forms, policies, and procedures. It is a short time to train officers to implement the changes and comply with the restrictions on public information which are unlike any in any other drug or criminal law.
The legislature retained marijuana as a PROHIBITED substance and by doing so appears to have sent a message that the use of marijuana is not in the public’s best interest and is not to be condoned. It also appears the legislature intended to use a fine for violations as the appropriate penalty to prevent use without creating a criminal record. Marijuana is remains illegal under federal law which could impact licensing, careers, and those on bail.
The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police advocates for public safety and is the voice of New Hampshire law enforcement leadership. We have concerns about the potential increase in the number of impaired drivers on our roadways and plan to address that through strict enforcement.