New Hampshire has decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, joining more than 20 states including all of New England in easing criminal penalties on pot, the AP reports. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu on Tuesday signed the bill that reduces the penalty for possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil violation. The legislation takes effect in 60 days. Under the new law, a violation would be punishable by a $100 fine for a first or second offense and by a fine of up to $300 for any subsequent offense within three years. A person could be charged with a misdemeanor if they are found with marijuana for a fourth time within the three years.
Under the bill, police cannot arrest someone for a marijuana violation, and any money collected from the fines will go toward alcohol and drug abuse prevention and treatment. "The governor deserves credit for his steadfast support of this commonsense reform," Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. Supporters argued the change would ensure young people's lives aren't ruined by getting caught with marijuana. They also said it would allow law enforcement officers to focus resources on serious crimes. Opponents said decriminalization sends the wrong message as the state battles a drug crisis. (Read more marijuana stories.)