Bill Text: NH HB492 | 2013 | Regular Session | Introduced


Bill Title: Relative to the legalization and regulation of marijuana.

Status: (Introduced - Dead) 2013-11-25 - Minority Committee Report: Ought to Pass with Amendment #2013-2334h [HB492 Detail]

Download: New_Hampshire-2013-HB492-Introduced.html

HB 492-FN-LOCAL – AS INTRODUCED

2013 SESSION

13-0443

04/03

HOUSE BILL 492-FN-LOCAL

AN ACT relative to the legalization and regulation of marijuana.

SPONSORS: Rep. Vaillancourt, Hills 15; Rep. Warden, Hills 39; Rep. Winters, Hills 18; Rep. Lambert, Hills 44; Rep. Robertson, Ches 6

COMMITTEE: Criminal Justice and Public Safety

ANALYSIS

This bill:

I. Legalizes the personal use of up to one ounce of marijuana by persons 21 years of age or older.

II. Authorizes the licensing of marijuana wholesale, retail, cultivation, and testing facilities.

III. Imposes a tax on the sale of marijuana.

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Explanation: Matter added to current law appears in bold italics.

Matter removed from current law appears [in brackets and struckthrough.]

Matter which is either (a) all new or (b) repealed and reenacted appears in regular type.

13-0443

04/03

STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE

In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Thirteen

AN ACT relative to the legalization and regulation of marijuana.

Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:

1 Purpose and Findings. The general court hereby finds that:

I. In the interest of the efficient use of law enforcement resources, enhancing revenue for public purposes, and individual freedom, the people of the state of New Hampshire find and declare that the use of marijuana should be legal for persons 21 years of age or older and taxed in a manner similar to alcohol.

II. In the interest of the health and public safety of our citizenry, the people of the state of New Hampshire further find and declare that marijuana should be regulated in a manner similar to alcohol so that:

(a) Individuals will have to show proof of age before purchasing marijuana;

(b) Selling, distributing, or transferring marijuana to minors and other individuals under the age of 21 shall remain illegal;

(c) Driving under the influence of marijuana shall remain illegal;

(d) Legitimate, taxpaying business people, and not criminal actors, will conduct sales of marijuana; and

(e) Marijuana sold in this state will be labeled and subject to additional regulations to ensure that consumers are informed and protected.

III. It is necessary to ensure consistency and fairness in the application of this act throughout the state and that, therefore, the matters addressed by this act are, except as specified herein, matters of statewide concern.

2 New Chapter; Regulation of Marijuana. Amend RSA by inserting after chapter 318-E the following new chapter:

CHAPTER 318-F

REGULATION OF MARIJUANA

318-F:1 Definitions. As used in this chapter:

I. “Consumer” means a person 21 years of age or older who purchases marijuana or marijuana products for personal use by persons 21 years of age or older, but not for resale to others.

II. “Department” means the department of revenue administration.

III. “Marijuana” means all parts of the plant of the genus cannabis whether growing or not, the seeds thereof, the resin extracted from any part of the plant, and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seeds, or its resin, including marijuana concentrate. “Marijuana” shall not include fiber produced from the stalks, oil, or cake made from the seeds of the plant, sterilized seed of the plant which is incapable of germination, or the weight of any other ingredient combined with marijuana to prepare topical or oral administrations, food, drink, or other product.

IV. “Marijuana accessories” means any equipment, products, or materials of any kind which are used, intended for use, or designed for use in planting, propagating, cultivating, growing, harvesting, composting, manufacturing, compounding, converting, producing, processing, preparing, testing, analyzing, packaging, repackaging, storing, vaporizing, or containing marijuana, or for ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing marijuana into the human body.

V. “Marijuana cultivation facility” means an entity licensed to cultivate, prepare, and package marijuana and sell marijuana to retail marijuana stores, to marijuana product manufacturing facilities, and to other marijuana cultivation facilities, but not to consumers.

VI. “Marijuana establishment” means a marijuana cultivation facility, a marijuana testing facility, a marijuana product manufacturing facility, or a retail marijuana store.

VII. “Marijuana product manufacturing facility” means an entity licensed to purchase marijuana; manufacture, prepare, and package marijuana products; and sell marijuana and marijuana products to other marijuana product manufacturing facilities and to retail marijuana stores, but not to consumers.

VIII. “Marijuana products” means concentrated marijuana products and marijuana products that are comprised of marijuana and other ingredients and are intended for use or consumption, such as, but not limited to, edible products, ointments, and tinctures.

IX. “Marijuana testing facility” means an entity licensed to analyze and certify the safety and potency of marijuana.

X. “Retail marijuana store” means an entity licensed to purchase marijuana from marijuana cultivation facilities and marijuana and marijuana products from marijuana product manufacturing facilities and to sell marijuana and marijuana products to consumers.

318-F:2 Personal Use of Marijuana. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the following acts shall not be unlawful and shall not be an offense under New Hampshire law or the law of any municipality within New Hampshire or be a basis for seizure or forfeiture of assets under New Hampshire law for persons 21 years of age or older:

I. Possessing, using, displaying, purchasing, or transporting marijuana accessories or one ounce or less of marijuana.

II. Possessing, growing, processing, or transporting no more than 6 marijuana plants, with 3 or fewer being mature, flowering plants, and possession of the marijuana produced by the plants on the premises where the plants were grown, provided that the growing takes place in an enclosed, locked space, is not conducted openly or publicly, and is not made available for sale.

III. Transfer of one ounce or less of marijuana without remuneration to a person who is 21 years of age or older.

IV. Consumption of marijuana, provided that nothing in this section shall permit consumption that is conducted openly and publicly or in a manner that endangers others.

V. Assisting another person who is 21 years of age or older in any of the acts described in this section.

318-F:3 Lawful Operation of Marijuana-Related Facilities. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the following acts are not unlawful and shall not be an offense under New Hampshire law or be a basis for seizure or forfeiture of assets under New Hampshire law for persons 21 years of age or older:

I. Manufacture, possession, or purchase of marijuana accessories or the sale of marijuana accessories to a person who is 21 years of age or older.

II. Possessing, displaying, or transporting marijuana or marijuana products; purchase of marijuana from a marijuana cultivation facility; purchase of marijuana or marijuana products from a marijuana product manufacturing facility; or sale of marijuana or marijuana products to consumers, if the person conducting the activities described in this paragraph has obtained a current, valid license to operate a retail marijuana store or is acting in his or her capacity as an owner, employee, or agent of a licensed retail marijuana store.

III. Cultivating, harvesting, processing, packaging, transporting, displaying, or possessing marijuana; delivery or transfer of marijuana to a marijuana testing facility; selling marijuana to a marijuana cultivation facility, a marijuana product manufacturing facility, or a retail marijuana store; or the purchase of marijuana from a marijuana cultivation facility, if the person conducting the activities described in this paragraph has obtained a current, valid license to operate a marijuana cultivation facility or is acting in his or her capacity as an owner, employee, or agent of a licensed marijuana cultivation facility.

IV. Packaging, processing, transporting, manufacturing, displaying, or possessing marijuana or marijuana products; delivery or transfer of marijuana or marijuana products to a marijuana testing facility; selling marijuana or marijuana products to a retail marijuana store or a marijuana product manufacturing facility; the purchase of marijuana from a marijuana cultivation facility; or the purchase of marijuana or marijuana products from a marijuana product manufacturing facility, if the person conducting the activities described in this paragraph has obtained a current, valid license to operate a marijuana product manufacturing facility or is acting in his or her capacity as an owner, employee, or agent of a licensed marijuana product manufacturing facility.

V. Possessing, cultivating, processing, repackaging, storing, transporting, displaying, transferring, or delivering marijuana or marijuana products if the person has obtained a current, valid license to operate a marijuana testing facility or is acting in his or her capacity as an owner, employee, or agent of a licensed marijuana testing facility.

VI. Leasing or otherwise allowing the use of property owned, occupied, or controlled by any person, corporation, or other entity for any of the activities conducted lawfully in accordance with this section.

318-F:4 Regulation of Marijuana.

I. Not later than October 1, 2013, the department shall adopt rules pursuant to RSA 541-A necessary for implementation of this chapter. Such rules shall include:

(a) Procedures for the issuance, renewal, suspension, and revocation of a license to operate a marijuana establishment.

(b) A schedule of application, licensing, and renewal fees, provided, application fees shall not exceed $1,000, adjusted annually for inflation, unless the department determines a greater fee is necessary to carry out its responsibilities under this chapter.

(c) Qualifications for licensure that are directly and demonstrably related to the operation of a marijuana establishment.

(d) Security requirements for marijuana establishments.

(e) Requirements to prevent the sale or diversion of marijuana and marijuana products to persons under the age of 21.

(f) Labeling requirements for marijuana and marijuana products sold or distributed by a marijuana establishment.

(g) Health and safety regulations and standards for the manufacture of marijuana products and the cultivation of marijuana.

(h) Restrictions on the advertising and display of marijuana and marijuana products.

II. In order to ensure the most secure, reliable, and accountable system for the production and distribution of marijuana and marijuana products in accordance with this chapter, in any competitive application process the department shall have as a primary consideration whether an applicant:

(a) Has prior experience producing or distributing marijuana or marijuana products; and

(b) Has, during the experience described in subparagraph (a), complied consistently with applicable laws.

III. The department shall not require a consumer to provide a retail marijuana store with personal information other than government-issued identification to determine the consumer’s age, and a retail marijuana store shall not be required to acquire and record personal information about consumers other than information typically acquired in a financial transaction conducted at a retail liquor store.

3 New Chapter; Taxation of Marijuana. Amend RSA by inserting after chapter 77-G the following new chapter:

CHAPTER 77-H

TAXATION OF MARIJUANA

77-H:1 Definitions. In this chapter, the definitions set forth in RSA 318-F:1 shall apply.

77-H:2 Tax Imposed. The department shall collect an excise tax to be levied upon marijuana sold or otherwise transferred by a marijuana cultivation facility to a marijuana product manufacturing facility or to a retail marijuana store at a rate of 15 percent of the sale price. The commissioner of the department of revenue administration shall deposit all tax revenues collected under this chapter into the general fund. The department shall adopt rules, pursuant to RSA 541-A relative to the procedures for collection of tax revenues under this chapter.

77-H:3 Administration.

I. Each application for an annual license to operate a marijuana establishment shall be submitted to the department. The department shall:

(a) Accept and process applications beginning on October 1, 2013;

(b) Immediately forward a copy of each application and half of the license application fee to the municipality in which the applicant desires to operate the marijuana establishment;

(c) Issue an annual license to the applicant between 45 and 90 days after receipt of an application unless the department finds the applicant is not in compliance with regulations enacted pursuant to this section or the department is notified by the relevant municipality that the applicant is not in compliance with ordinances and regulations made pursuant to this section and in effect at the time of application, provided, where a municipality has enacted a numerical limit on the number of marijuana establishments and a greater number of applicants seek licenses, the department shall solicit and consider input from the municipality as to the municipality’s preference or preferences for licensure; and

(d) Upon denial of an application, notify the applicant in writing of the specific reason for its denial.

II. No later than October 1, 2013, each municipality shall enact an ordinance or regulation specifying the entity within the municipality that is responsible for processing applications submitted for a license to operate a marijuana establishment within the boundaries of the municipality and for the issuance of such licenses should the issuance by the municipality become necessary because of a failure by the department to adopt rules, or because of a failure by the department to process and issue licenses.

III. A municipality may enact ordinances, consistent with this section, RSA 318-F, and any rules adopted, regulating the time, place, manner, and number of marijuana establishment operations; establishing procedures for the issuance, suspension, and revocation of a license issued by the municipality; establishing a schedule of annual operating, licensing, and application fees for marijuana establishments, provided, the application fee shall only be due if an application is submitted to a municipality in accordance with this section and a licensing fee shall only be due if a license is issued by a municipality in accordance with this section; and establishing civil penalties for violation of an ordinance or regulation governing the time, place, and manner of a marijuana establishment that may operate in such municipality.

IV. If the department does not issue a license to an applicant within 90 days of receipt of the application filed in accordance with this section and does not notify the applicant of the specific reason for its denial in writing and within such time period, or if the department has adopted rules pursuant to this section and has accepted applications pursuant to this section but has not issued any licenses by January 1, 2014, the applicant may resubmit its application directly to the municipality, pursuant to this section, and the municipality may issue an annual license to the applicant. A municipality issuing a license to an applicant shall do so within 90 days of receipt of the resubmitted application unless the municipality finds and notifies the applicant that the applicant is not in compliance with ordinances and regulations made pursuant to this section in effect at the time the application is resubmitted and the municipality shall notify the department if an annual license has been issued to the applicant. If an application is submitted to a municipality under this paragraph, the department shall forward to the municipality the application fee paid by the applicant to the department upon request by the municipality. A license issued by a municipality in accordance with this paragraph shall have the same force and effect as a license issued by the department in accordance with this section and the holder of such license shall not be subject to regulation or enforcement by the department during the term of that license. A subsequent or renewed license may be issued under this paragraph on an annual basis only upon resubmission to the municipality of a new application submitted to the department pursuant to this section.

V. If the department does not adopt rules required by this section, an applicant may submit an application directly to a municipality after October 1, 2013 and the municipality may issue an annual license to the applicant. A municipality issuing a license to an applicant shall do so within 90 days of receipt of the application unless it finds and notifies the applicant that the applicant is not in compliance with ordinances and regulations made pursuant to this section in effect at the time of application and shall notify the department if an annual license has been issued to the applicant. A license issued by a municipality in accordance with this paragraph shall have the same force and effect as a license issued by the department in accordance with this section and the holder of such license shall not be subject to regulation or enforcement by the department during the term of that license. A subsequent or renewed license may be issued under this paragraph on an annual basis if the department has not adopted regulations required by this section at least 90 days prior to the date upon which such subsequent or renewed license would be effective or if the department has adopted regulations pursuant to this section but has not, at least 90 days after the adoption of such regulations, issued licenses pursuant to this section.

77-H:4 Employers, Driving, Minors, and Control of Property.

I. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to require an employer to permit or accommodate the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sale, or growing of marijuana in the workplace or to affect the ability of employers to have policies restricting the use of marijuana by employees.

II. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to allow driving under the influence of a drug pursuant to RSA 265-A:2 or to supersede statutory laws related to driving under the influence of a drug pursuant to RSA 265-A:2, nor shall this section prevent the state from enacting and imposing penalties for driving under the influence of or while impaired by marijuana.

III. Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to permit the transfer of marijuana, with or without remuneration, to a person under the age of 21 or to allow a person under the age of 21 to purchase, possess, use, transport, grow, or consume marijuana.

IV. Nothing in this chapter shall prohibit a person, employer, school, hospital, correctional facility, corporation, or any other entity which occupies, owns, or controls a property from prohibiting or otherwise regulating the possession, consumption, use, display, transfer, distribution, sale, transportation, or growing of marijuana on or in that property.

4 Controlled Drug Act; Definitions. Amend the introductory paragraph of RSA 318-B:1, X-a(k) to read as follows:

(k) Objects used or intended for use or customarily intended for use in ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing [marijuana,] cocaine, hashish, or hashish oil into the human body, such as:

5 Controlled Drug Act; Definitions. Amend RSA 318-B:1, XX to read as follows:

XX. “Other stimulant and depressant drugs” means controlled drugs other than amphetamine-type, barbiturate-type, [cannabis-type,] cocaine-type, hallucinogenics, and morphine-type which are found to exert a stimulant and depressant effect upon the higher functions of the central nervous system and which are found to have a potential for abuse.

6 Controlled Drug Act; Scheduling by Commissioner. Amend RSA 318-B:1-a, VI to read as follows:

VI. Authority to control under this section shall not extend to distilled spirits, wine, malt beverages, marijuana, or tobacco.

7 Model Drug Dealer Liability Act; Definitions. Amend RSA 318-C:4, V-VIII to read as follows:

V. “Level 1 offense” means possession of 1/4 ounce or more, but less than 4 ounces, or distribution of less than one ounce of an illegal drug [other than marijuana, or possession of one pound or more or 25 plants or more, but less than 4 pounds or 50 plants, or distribution of more than 1/2 pound but less than one pound of marijuana].

VI. “Level 2 offense” means possession of 4 ounces or more, but less than 8 ounces, or distribution of one ounce or more, but less than 2 ounces, of an illegal drug [other than marijuana, or possession of 4 pounds or more or 50 plants or more but less than 8 pounds or 75 plants or distribution of one pound or more but less than 5 pounds of marijuana].

VII. “Level 3 offense” means possession of 8 ounces or more, but less than 16 ounces, or distribution of 2 ounces or more, but less than 4 ounces, of an illegal drug [other than marijuana, or possession of 8 pounds or more or 75 plants or more, but less than 16 pounds or 100 plants, or distribution of 5 pounds or more but less than 10 pounds of marijuana].

VIII. “Level 4 offense” means possession of 16 ounces or more or distribution of 4 ounces or more of an illegal drug [other than marijuana, or possession of 16 pounds or more or 100 plants or more or distribution of 10 pounds or more of marijuana].

8 Wiretapping and Eavesdropping; Definitions. Amend RSA 570-A:1, XI to read as follows:

XI. “Organized crime” means the unlawful activities of the members of a highly organized, disciplined association engaged in supplying illegal goods and services, including but not limited to homicide, gambling, prostitution, narcotics[, marijuana] or other dangerous drugs, bribery, extortion, blackmail, and other unlawful activities of members of such organizations.

9 Wiretapping and Eavesdropping; Authorization for Interception of Telecommunications or Oral Communication. Amend RSA 570-A:7 to read as follows:

570-A:7 Authorization for Interception of Telecommunications or Oral Communications. The attorney general, deputy attorney general, or a county attorney, upon the written approval of the attorney general or deputy attorney general, may apply to a judge of competent jurisdiction for an order authorizing or approving the interception of telecommunications or oral communications, and such judge may grant, in conformity with RSA 570-A:9, an order authorizing or approving the interception of telecommunications or oral communications by investigative or law enforcement officers having responsibility for the investigation of the offenses as to which the application is made, when such interception may provide, or has provided, evidence of the commission of organized crime, as defined in RSA 570-A:1, XI, or evidence of the commission of the offenses of homicide, kidnapping, gambling, theft as defined in RSA 637, corrupt practices as defined in RSA 640, child pornography under RSA 649-A, computer pornography and child exploitation under RSA 649-B, criminal conduct in violation of the securities law, as defined in RSA 421-B:3, 421-B:4, 421-B:5, 421-B:19, and 421-B:24, criminal conduct in violation of the security takeover disclosure laws, as defined in RSA 421-A:3, 421-A:7, 421-A:8, 421-A:11, and 421-A:13, robbery as defined in RSA 636:1, arson as defined in RSA 634:1, hindering apprehension or prosecution as defined in RSA 642:3, tampering with witnesses and informants as defined in RSA 641:5, aggravated felonious sexual assault as defined in RSA 632-A:2, felonious sexual assault as defined in RSA 632-A:3, escape as defined in RSA 642:6, bail jumping as defined in RSA 642:8, insurance fraud as defined in RSA 638:20, dealing in narcotic drugs[, marijuana, ]or other dangerous drugs, hazardous waste violations under RSA 147-A:4, I, or any conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing offenses.

10 Purity and Branding of Foods and Drugs; Misbranding. Amend RSA 146:6, IV to read as follows:

IV. If it is for use by man and contains any quantity of the narcotic or hypnotic substance alpha-eucaine, barbituric acid, beta-eucaine, bromal, [cannabis,] carbromal, chloral, coca, cocaine, codeine, heroin, [marihuana,] morphine, opium, paraldehyde, peyote, or sulphonmethane, or any chemical derivative of such substance, which derivative has been by the commissioner after investigation found to be, and by regulation designated as, habit-forming, unless its label bears the name and quantity or proportion of such substance or derivative and in juxtaposition therewith the statement “Warning - May Be Habit Forming.”

11 Study, Treatment, and Care of Inebriates; Definitions. Amend RSA 172:1, XXII to read as follows:

XXII. “Other stimulant and depressant drugs” means controlled drugs other than amphetamine-type, barbiturate-type, [cannabis-type,] cocaine-type, hallucinogenics, and morphine-type which are found to exert a stimulant and depressant effect upon the higher functions of a central nervous system and which are found to have a potential for abuse.

12 Repeal. The following are repealed:

I. RSA 318-B:1, IV, relative to the definition of a cannabis-type drug.

II. RSA 318-B:1, X-a(g), relative to separation gins and sifters for cleaning or refining marijuana.

III. RSA 318-B:9, VI, relative to the dispensing of cannabis-type drugs by a pharmacist upon written prescription.

IV. RSA 318-B:10, VI, relative to a physician’s authority to dispense cannabis-type drugs.

V. RSA 318-B:26, I(b)(6), relative to penalties for certain amounts of marijuana and hashish.

VI. RSA 318-B:26, I(c)(5), relative to penalties for certain amounts of marijuana and hashish.

VII. RSA 318-B:26, I(d)(1), relative to penalties for certain amounts of marijuana and hashish.

VIII. RSA 318-B:26, II(c), relative to penalties for certain amounts of marijuana and hashish.

IX. RSA 318-B:26, II(d), relative to penalties for certain amounts of marijuana and hashish.

X. RSA 172:1, XIV, relative to the definition of cannabis-type drug.

13 Severability. If any provision of this act, or the application thereof to any person, thing, or circumstance is held invalid, such invalidity shall not affect the provisions or application of this act which can be given effect without the invalid provision or application, and to this end the provisions of this act are declared to be severable.

14 Effective Date. This act shall take effect July 1, 2013.

LBAO

13-0443

Revised 09/19/13

HB 492 FISCAL NOTE

AN ACT relative to the legalization and regulation of marijuana.

FISCAL IMPACT:

The Department of Revenue Administration, New Hampshire Municipal Association, Department of Health and Human Services, Judicial Council, New Hampshire Association of Counties, and Department of Justice state this bill, as introduced, will have an indeterminable fiscal impact on state, local, and county revenue and expenditures in FY 2014 and each year thereafter.

The Office of Legislative Budget Assistant is awaiting information from the Judicial Branch relative to the potential fiscal impact of this bill. The Branch was initially contacted on 01/11/13 and most recently contacted on 08/23/13.

METHODOLOGY:

The Department of Revenue Administration states this bill legalizes the personal use of up to one ounce of marijuana by individuals 21 years of age or older, authorizes the licensing and operation of marijuana wholesale, retail, cultivation, and testing facilities, and imposes a tax on the sale of marijuana. The Department states it was unable to estimate revenue resulting from the bill given that much of the date on marijuana production and usage is outdated and would require numerous assumptions. The Department states it would incur significant costs to study, develop, and implement a licensing certification process, as well as enforcement mechanisms, a tax implementation and collections process, and auditing, appeals, and hearings procedures. In addition, the bill would require the Department to issue administrative rules relating to the licensure of marijuana establishments. For these reasons, the Department states the bill’s fiscal impact is indeterminable.

The New Hampshire Municipal Association states that should the Department of Revenue Administration fail to adopt administrative rules pertaining to the licensure of marijuana establishments, municipalities are required to adopt ordinances regulating such facilities. Additionally, in the event that the Department fails to process and issue licenses, applicants for licenses may apply directly to municipalities. The bill provides that when an application is submitted to the Department, one half of the application fee will be paid to the municipality in which the facility is proposed to be located. If an application is submitted directly to a municipality because the Department has failed to adopt rules or process and issue licenses, the entire fee would be paid to the municipality. The Association states that the adoption of ordinances and the processing of applications could presumably be accomplished without additional personnel. To the extent additional expenditures are required, they presumably would be more than offset by application and licensing fees. The Association states it appears likely that some municipalities will receive net additional revenues from application and licensing fees. The Association states, however, that it has no way to predict how many establishments would apply for licenses under the law, where they would locate, or whether circumstances would require them to apply directly to the municipality rather than the Department of Revenue Administration. The Association further states that it cannot predict the effect of marijuana legalization on law enforcement expenditures. For these reasons, the Association states the fiscal impact of the bill is indeterminable.

The Department of Health and Human Services, Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services cites a study suggesting that marijuana legalization would lead to an increase in the number of individuals needing treatment for abuse or dependence. The Department states, however, that the bill does not appropriate additional money to the Department for the purpose of funding treatment. In addition, the Department does not expect to receive funding from any other sources. The bill would therefore have no impact on the Department’s budget.

The Judicial Council states that currently, possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is punishable as a class A misdemeanor. The sale, distribution, transportation, and dispensation of marijuana is currently an unclassified felony offense. The bill would legalize the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, and would eliminate the felony-level penalties that currently apply to large-scale black market manufacture and distribution of marijuana. The Council states that the bill, were it to result in fewer felony-level and misdemeanor-level drug offenses, would potentially mean fewer criminal cases brought requiring the appointment of counsel at state expense. This could result in savings of the flat fee of $275 per misdemeanor and $756.25 per felony. In cases in which an assigned counsel attorney would have been used, the savings would be the $60 per hour fee (up to a total of $1,300 for a misdemeanor charge and $4,100 for a felony charge). In addition, public defender, contract attorney and assigned counsel rates for Supreme Court appeals are $2,000 per case, an expense that would no longer be incurred. The Council states that to the extent marijuana possession charges are accompanied by other, more serious class A misdemeanor charges, the indigent accused would continue to enjoy the right to assistance of counsel at state expense.

The New Hampshire Association of Counties states it is unable to determine the number of individuals the bill may impact or the reduction in the number of individuals who may come into contact with the criminal justice system, either through the sheriffs, the county attorneys, or the county correctional facilities. The Association of Counties states to the extent fewer individuals are charged, convicted, and sentenced to incarceration in a county correctional facility, the counties may have decreased expenditures. The Association is unable to determine the number of individuals that might not be charged, convicted or incarcerated as a result of this bill to determine an exact fiscal impact. The average annual cost to incarcerate an individual in a county correctional facility is approximately $35,000. There is no impact on county revenue.

The Department of Justice states that currently, the Attorney General’s Drug Task Force investigates the possession and trafficking of controlled drugs, including marijuana. If the bill were to pass, the Task Force would shift any resources currently being spent on marijuana investigations to those involving other controlled drugs. Similarly, any prosecutorial resources being used in the Criminal Justice Bureau to prosecute cases or drug forfeiture actions involving the distribution of marijuana would be shifted to cases involving other controlled drugs. For these reasons, the Department states the bill will have no fiscal impact.

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