As reported by New Hampshire 1 News Network on May 11th 2017, “New Hampshire’s state Senate voted 17-6 Thursday to approve a measure that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.” The report goes on to add that Governor Chris Sununu has also announced his support for the legislation and will “sign the bill into law” once it reaches his desk later this year. Once signed, up to 3/4 of an ounce of marijuana will be decriminalized for personal use.
Considering that New Hampshire’s legislature has chosen to vote down similar marijuana laws on 8 different occasions over the course of the last decade, the news this week does come as a great surprise to many. Honestly, as a New Hampshire resident myself, I did not hear about this legislation until it was passed by the Senate this week.
View The Bill In Its Entirety Here: http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/bill_status/billText.aspx?sy=2017&id=69&txtFormat=pdf&v=current
As for why this has become a pressing issue for New Hampshire’s legislature to deal with in 2017 compared to years past, it is because marijuana could theoretically become legal on all 4 of New Hampshire’s borders by the end of next year. As it stands today, Marijuana is already legal in Maine to the East, legal in Massachusetts to the South, Vermont’s legislature has attempted passed legalization to the West and later next year, by the summer of 2018, marijuana will most likely be legal in Canada to the North.
If New Hampshire just sat back and didn’t do anything, the state risks becoming its own island, surrounded by an ocean of weed while still living in the Dark Ages – metaphorically speaking that is. This is also why, upon passing the legislation earlier this week, Senator Jeff Woodburn surmised how “the times they are a-changing,” while adding that marijuana decriminalization “is an idea whose time has come” in 2017.
Why Is Legal Marijuana Beneficial for New Hampshire?
Marijuana legalization/decriminalization will save the state millions to tens of millions of dollars off their yearly budget, while grossing the state new revenue from fines at the same time. To understand how this is possible, you have to understand that according to Federal statistics, police made over 547,000 arrests for simple marijuana possession last year alone. For some perspective on this figure, this means more people are arrested in this country for marijuana possession than every category of violent crimes combined.
Every person that society arrests costs the state money, from prosecuting the individual to holding them in jail, to running them through the courts and our justice system. All of these expenses are then paid for by the taxpayers of that state, added to the states yearly fiscal budget. Once again, according to different Federal statistics, it costs on average +$40,000 for any state in the United States to hold one person in prison for a year.
This means that for every marijuana arrest the state does not make in the future, it theoretically saves the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars each time. Moreover, instead of spending money on the states budget to prosecute and incarcerate marijuana smokers, not only does this money become freed up, but the New Hampshire’s Government will actually start to make money from it in the future – through fines imposed upon the offenders. Fiscally speaking, this is a “win, win” for the people and our Government.
How much money is decriminalization worth for NH?
It is hard to say for certain, but Colorado did make 69$ million dollars from marijuana taxation in 2015 alone. Combining the money that Colorado saved by not prosecuting or incarcerated marijuana users, it is estimated that Colorado saved/added over 100 million dollars from the their budget from 2014. All while lowering crime rates in the process.
Considering that New Hampshire decided to decriminalized weed as opposed to legalizing it, the sate will not be making marijuana tax revenue from it in the future. Even if it did, New Hampshire has a much smaller population than Colorado and the figures might not be comparable in that sense. However, while NH might not make 100 millions dollars from marijuana decriminalization in one year like other states have, New Hampshire will end up saving at least tens of millions of dollars in the process – largely from legal, criminal and police expenditure.
Statistics indicate that a super majority of New Hampshire residents have supported marijuana legalization for the better part of the last half decade and while we still do not have this, it is nice to finally see our “representatives” executing the will of the people who elect them to office. While no one will be allowed to go outside and smoke weed in public even after this bill gets passed into law, given how stubborn and resistant to change New Hampshire’s Legislature has proven themselves to be in the past, you have to take your victories wherever you can get them.