Lawmakers in New England are not letting the latest announcement from Attorney General Jeff Sessions deter them from continuing to work towards ending the prohibition of cannabis at a state level. The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 207-139 in favor of a bill that would legalize the possession and cultivation of cannabis, less than a week after Vermont’s House passed a very similar bill.
Originally, the House bill was written with the intention of full recreational legalization – including taxing and regulating the commercial sale of cannabis products – but the bill almost died before it ever saw a floor vote. However, when given the opportunity to vote on whether to end the bill there or revise and reconsider came about, the House voted 183-162 against ending the bill.
From there, the bill was amended to only allow adults 21 and older to possess up to three-quarters of an ounce of cannabis, 5 grams of hashish and certain cannabis-infused products. Also, the bill allows adults 21 and older the freedom to grow up to three mature and three immature cannabis plants at home. This version of the bill is what was passed by the New Hampshire House this past week.
“I know in this legislative process we have a long ways to go,” Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, said. “But it’s an important first step forward. It shows that New Hampshire has a willingness to get in step with all the states surrounding it.”
The main reason for the amended version of the bill was to get a better chance at passing a legalization bill this year as opponents argue that allowing taxed and regulated sales is jumping the gun as the state waits on a legislative study commission to finish examining how a legalized market could work in the state. By keeping the bill to personal possession and home cultivation only, it will get rid of the fines associated with their recently passed decriminalization law, and give the commission time to give their recommendation before moving forward with legal sales.
“There’s no reason not to do that much this year and let the study commission continue to talk about the regulation and tax components,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project.
Though it had been expected that the bill would go straight to the Senate for review, it was instead referred to the House Ways and Means Committee. If it does not see any significant changes while in committee, then it will still go to the Senate – but it may have a tougher time passing in that chamber, as many previous legalization bills have ended there. But in a time when more than half the voters in the state are asking for legalization, while surrounding states are all working towards that same goal, perhaps the New Hampshire Senate will be on board this time around.