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New Hampshire Decriminalizes Marijuana, No Change in University Policy

By Samantha Latos; Assist. News Editor
On September 28, 2017

New Hampshire Decriminalizes Marijuana, No Change in University Policy 

Samantha Latos

Assistant News Editor

slatos@plymouth.edu 

 

On September 16th, the state of New Hampshire officially decriminalized small amounts of marijuana. All of New England has now eliminated the possibility of jail time for simple and minor marijuana possession.

Before this, first-time marijuana possession was seen as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, and a $2,000 fine. Under this new law, first-time possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana is seen as a civil violation, and will only be punishable by a monetary fine, rather than a criminal offense. Most sources are stating that this fine will likely be $100.

Students should understand the difference between legalization and decriminalization. The possession and smoking of marijuana is still illegal in the state of New Hampshire. Decriminalization means that the criminal penalties attributed to small amounts of marijuana are no longer in effect. The only circumstance that anyone would go into custody for marijuana charges is if they are selling marijuana, or if they are caught with more than three-quarters of an ounce.

This will not change PSU’s drug policy. Steven Temperino, Police Chief and Director of Public Safety believes that students need to understand what this reform means to them. “The University is obligated to enforce drug laws, and we are doing that”, he said, “We are often called for marijuana use in residential halls, and our policy is the same; we will continue to seize marijuana. If there are large volumes of marijuana, or if someone is selling marijuana, they will be subject to be arrested and prosecuted, because it is still a criminal offense.” The same course of action will be in use for anyone who violates this policy. Any student caught with a small amount of marijuana will be given a citation. “It’s similar to a parking ticket”, Mr. Temperino said, “You will either have to appear in court, or pay a monetary fine.” Students who continue to violate this rule typically get put on a form of probation. The second step could be a suspension. The third step would result in an even higher consequence, beyond the University.

Marijuana will still be definitively prohibited on-campus and in residential halls. The biggest threat is that it’s a very large fire hazard. It is the same reason why we cannot have candles; it is far too great of a risk. “Using any tobacco product inside the res halls will get you into a lot of trouble”, Mr. Temperino explained, “First off, there is a health issue, not everyone enjoys inhaling cigarette and/or marijuana smoke, and there is a safety issue on having something lit. If students are caught smoking anything in the res halls, it could put their residential status in jeopardy.”

Living in res halls is a privilege, not a right. The University Police Department is obligated to maintain a safe environment for students, especially within the res halls. Too many risks come from the smoke alone; students who have respiratory problems, and certain allergies are entitled to feeling safe, especially in their own dorms. Many fires have been caused by people falling asleep while smoking cigarettes, and police have no reason to believe that marijuana is any safer. “It’s a quality of life issue”, Mr. Temperino said, “We will not put up with it.”

Students were hesitant on giving their inputs, because marijuana is a controversial and illegal topic. However, most agreed that they were not surprised by this.

New Hampshire was the 22nd state to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, and one could say it is a moving target. Marijuana laws have changed greatly in recent history. It is legal for recreational and medical use in Massachusetts, Maine, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, California and Alaska. No one knows for sure if New Hampshire is headed in this direction. Time can only tell if these reforms will be successful. 

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