civil violation

New Hampshire: House Approves Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

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The New Hampshire House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday evening in a voice vote that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine. The measure will now be considered in the Senate.

HB 1631 would make possession of up to one-half ounce of marijuana a civil violation punishable by a fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and $500 for a third or subsequent offense. Under current state law, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.

“This is commonsense marijuana policy reform,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “It is irrational to brand people as criminals simply for possessing a substance that is safer than alcohol.”

Nearly three out of four New Hampshire residents (72 percent) think the legislature should decriminalize marijuana possession or make it legal for adults, according to a WMUR Granite State Poll released earlier this month. The full results are available at http://bit.ly/1Xdt8j9.

“New Hampshire citizens want the legislature to adopt a more sensible marijuana policy,” Simon said. “House members have done their part, and we hope their colleagues in the Senate will join them in supporting this measure.”

Illinois: Bill Introduced To Remove Criminal Penalties For Marijuana Possession

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Rep. Kelly Cassidy on Thursday announced that she is introducing new legislation for 2016 that would replace criminal penalties with a civil fine for possession of a personal amount of marijuana in Illinois.

HB 4357 would make possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana a civil violation punishable by a fine. Adults would no longer face time in jail, and the civil offense would be automatically expunged in order to prevent a permanent criminal record.

The proposal largely mirrors legislation previously introduced by Rep. Cassidy that was approved in the Senate (37-19) on May 21 and in the House (62-53) on April 23, as well the amendments proposed by Gov. Bruce Rauner when he vetoed the bill and returned it to the legislature on August 14.

“This is a reasonable proposal that is long overdue,” Rep. Cassidy said. “It needs to happen, and I am hopeful that we can make it happen quickly since it’s already such familiar territory for legislators and the governor.”

Members of the Illinois faith community joined Rep. Cassidy at the news conference to voice support for the bill. More than 50 clergy from around the state have signed a Religious Declaration of Clergy for a New Drug Policy, which includes support for civil rather than criminal sanctions for marijuana possession.

Hawaii: Senate Votes Unanimously To Decriminalize Marijuana

Hawaii: Senate Votes Unanimously To Decriminalize MarijuanaBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Hawaii state Senate voted unanimously on Tuesday to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. The proposal now goes to the House.

The bill would make the possession of one ounce or less a civil violation. Lawmakers tacked on a $1,000 fine to emphasize that marijuana is still illegal, despite the shift from criminal to civil penalties, reports Anita Hofschneider of The Associated Press.

The bill is designed to reduce the backlog in Hawaii's criminal justice system, according to sponsor Sen. Clayton Hee.

Meanwhile, law enforcement officials, reluctant to give up the disproportionate power over everyday citizens which marijuana criminalization gives them, predictably oppose the bill. They claim decriminalization would make it harder to enforce laws against pot.

A bill to legalize marijuana in Hawaii died in the House earlier this session.

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