By KIMBERLEY HAAS
Sunday News Correspondent
September 16. 2017 9:27PM
As the state’s marijuana decriminalization law goes into effect, members of law enforcement are nervous. (File photo)
HAMPTON – At midnight on Saturday the state’s decriminalization of marijuana law went into effect, and while some say it’s a good thing to reduce the punishment for recreational use, those in law enforcement are wary about how this will play out on the local level.
New Hampshire State Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, who is on the committee for criminal justice and public safety, is the sponsor of HB 640, which reduces the penalty for possessing 3/4 of an ounce or less of marijuana, or 5 grams or less of hashish, making it a violation level offense.
Under the law, offenders can be fined $100 for a first or second offense. Any subsequent offense within a three-year period carries the possibility of a $300 fine.
If an adult is caught a fourth time, they can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor.
Cushing said decriminalization has been 40 years in the making, and it is unfair for residents to face harsh penalties for personal marijuana use when the state promotes liquor stores built along New Hampshire’s highways. He said taxpayers currently spend an average of $6 million arresting and prosecuting people for small amounts of pot.
“It’s failed public policy,” Cushing said Thursday.
Those who work in law enforcement don’t buy the argument that there will be great financial or time savings once the decriminalization law goes into effect. They point out that officers will still need to confiscate and process the marijuana, file reports and testify in court if someone refuses to plead guilty and pay the fine through the mail.
“It doesn’t make life easier. It makes it more complicated,” explained Dover Police Chief Anthony Colarusso.
Colarusso said there are