This week the New Hampshire House will consider the bill on whether to legalize up to 1 ounce of marijuana for ages 21 and older for recreational use.
Supporters are proposing to tax the drug when sold at a retail rate of $30 per ounce. In addition, allowing people grow up to 6 marijuana plants in a controlled environment. A poll released October 25 2013 by (WMUR Granite State Poll pdf.), showed 60% of New Hampshire adults support HB 492, a bill to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.
Manchester Republican and State Rep. Steve Vaillancourt supported the bill and said the legislation is modeled after one that was approved by voters in Colorado last year and is similar to one Washington voters passed. Vaillancourt said that the bill would not be effective until July 1 to provide time to implement it properly. He also stated that taxing the drug would bring in millions of dollars in tax revenue.
New Hampshire criminal lawyer Justin Shepherd stated that allowing this bill to pass would significantly reduce the number of criminal drug possession cases and arrests in New Hampshire.
Rep. Steve Vaillancourt (R-Manchester) has vowed to continue pushing the legislation by fighting the committee recommendation on the House floor. The House is expected to vote on the bill sometime during the first three days of the 2014 legislative session.
On July 23, 2013, Gov. Maggie Hassan signed a bill allowing seriously ill New Hampshire residents to use marijuana for medical purposes. With the signing N.H. becomes 19th state to pass medical marijuana law. A summary of the bill is available, click here.
This bill does not allow anyone to drive while under the influence of marijuana or any other substance. The idea is by legalizing, taxing and regulating the drug; it would effectively take the profit away from illegal operations which is bad for society.
Opponents did argue that marijuana is bad for people's health and would be difficult to regulate.
Criminal Justice and Public Safety Chairwoman Laura Pantelakos noted that marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
"If New Hampshire were to legalize and regulate marijuana, it would create an unclear picture of the state versus federal law enforcement, particularly since the (Department of Justice) has stated it will rely on states that legalize to strictly enforce and regulate marijuana," Pantelakos said in a report to the House. She said that could shift regulatory costs onto the state.
Resource: Current Marijuana Laws in New Hampshire
Lawmakers have considered but rejected decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana for recreational use in the past, most recently last session. But decriminalization supporters were encouraged when the state — with Gov. Maggie Hassan's backing — made it legal for the seriously ill to possess and use the drug earlier this year. Implementing the state's medical marijuana law is expected to take a year.
If the bill does pass the House, it still faces a doubtful future. The Senate rejected a bill to decriminalize possession of up to one-quarter ounce of the drug last year and Hassan still opposes decriminalization.
FOR SUPPORTERS: If you want to ask your legislators to support HB 492 when the legislature reconvenes in January go to: The Marijuana Policy Project to sign up!