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A key committee in New Hampshire’s House of Representatives has given approval to legislation that would legalize marijuana for those 21 and older.
House Bill 481 was passed last week by the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee in a 10 to 9 vote. The measure now moves towards a vote by the full House of Representatives. Passage in the House would send the bill to the Senate; passage in the Senate would send it to Governor Chris Sununu who would have the option of signing it into law, allowing it to become law without his signature or vetoing it.
Under the proposed law, those 21 and older would be allowed to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use. They could also grow up to six marijuana plants (up to 12 per household).
In addition, the legislation would establish a licensed and regulated system of marijuana businesses. Anyone 21 and older – even those who live outside or New Hampshire – would be allowed to purchase from marijuana retail outlets. Marijuana would be taxed at $30 per ounce for dried bud. A cannabis control commission would be established to oversee regulations and licensing for the legal marijuana industry.
State projections show that legalization would bring in at least $20 million, and as much as $31 million, in new taxes each year.
Under the law, the public consumption of marijuana would remain prohibited, but would be just a civil infraction rather than a criminal offense. The infraction would be an $100 ticket.
Public consumption would be banned and subject to a $100 fine on first offense.
“It was a historic vote,” State Representative Robert Cushing , the bill’s primary sponsor, said in an interview with NHPR. “For the first time in history the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted to recommend that we put an end to the prohibition of cannabis and enact a law to provide for the legalization, regulation and taxation.” The measure’s other sponsors include Representatives Carol McGuire (R), Jerry Knirk (D), John O’Connonor (R), James Webb (R), Casey Conley (D), Skip Cleaver (D), Linda Tanner (D), Edward Butler (D) and Scott Wallace (R), as well as Senators John Reagan (R) and Matha Hennessey (D).
Last year New Hampshire’s full House of Representatives approved House Bill 656, introduced last session by Represenative Glen Aldrich (R-Gilford), which would have made the possession of three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana legal for those aged 21 and older. The bill, which would have also allowed home cultivation and marijuana stores, was passed 207 to 139, but unfortunately stalled in the Senate.
“The House deserves tremendous credit for taking this reasonable step forward”, says Matt Simon, the New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said after that vote. “Most Granite Staters understand that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, and they’re ready to see it treated that way. Allowing adults 21 and older to grow a few plants without penalty will give them a much-needed alternative to buying from illicit dealers.”
If New Hampshire does legalize marijuana, they would become the 11th state to do so.
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