Recreational marijuana bills move forward in the House

Feb 28, 2017

BY: CCNH-LFDA Highlights

The status of recreational marijuana use in New Hampshire looks more likely to change, with two House committees ruling in favor of a pair of bills to study and possibly decriminalize the drug.

HB 640, sponsored by Rep. Renny Cushing, is this year’s marijuana decriminalization bill. Rather than making recreational marijuana fully legal in the Granite State, the bill would eliminate criminal penalties for possession of small quantities of the drug—up to one ounce—for those aged 21 and over.  Instead of potential jail time, being caught with marijuana would be treated as a violation, similar to a speeding ticket, with a fine of up to $350.

The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee ruled in favor of the bill 14-2, and a vote by the full House is expected soon.

A related bill also sponsored by Rep. Cushing, HB 215, received preliminary approval as well, with an 18-1 vote in the House Ways and Means Committee. The bill would establish a committee to study legalizing marijuana use in New Hampshire, including regulation and taxation.

In the Senate, SB 233 would accomplish similar aims, decriminalizing marijuana and establishing a committee to study full legalization.

Cushing’s strategy in proposing a committee as a half-step towards legalization is an intriguing one, as past bills aimed at legalizing and regulating the drug have consistently failed to pass the Legislature. In fact, no state in the U.S. has legalized marijuana through the will of elected representatives thus far, with the success of such moves dependent on citizen-driven ballot initiatives—an option that is not available in New Hampshire.

This year’s legal marijuana bill HB 656, is currently being considered by a House committee with no report yet filed. However, with recreational marijuana now legal in neighboring states Maine and Massachusetts, the chances for the success of those bills could look rosier, making Cushing’s more moderate measures unnecessary.

For detailed information about the history and status of marijuana in New Hampshire—including pro and con arguments—see our issue pages on Marijuana Legalization and Marijuana Decriminalization.

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Marijuana Legalization | 4 comment(s)
Should NH legalize the recreational use of marijuana?

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