Last month New Hampshire became the 22nd US state to eliminate jail sentences for marijuana possession. The states that have decriminalized now are: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont, in addition to the 8 states (plus DC) that have legalized adult use of cannabis (Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington).
Decriminalizing is important as it begins to dismantle the war on drugs to the extent it applies to marijuana. New Hampshire previously imposed both a fine and up to a one year prison sentence for possession of even small amounts. Now it’s a $100 “traffic ticket” for possession of up to 3/4 of an ounce of cannabis flowers or five grams of hashish. Marijuana convictions have burdened casual users, preventing them from obtaining student loans or even employment.
Of course marijuana possession remains a federal crime which can subject you to serious jail time. Here’s an idea: instead of pushing a big rock uphill in the Congress to fully legalize marijuana on a federal level, maybe we should start with a federal decriminalization bill. Might that have a better chance of passage than the multiple bills currently pending to legalize? Maybe.