|New Hampshire state house.|
Adults in New Hampshire are one step closer to being able to use, purchase and cultivate limited amounts of cannabis after the state house yesterday gave preliminary approved to a legalization proposal.
House Bill 492, modeled after Colorado’s marijuan laws, would legalize up to an ounce of pot for personal possession for adults 21 and up. It would also legalize personal cultvaiton of up to six plants as well as establish a system for allowing sales of recreational cannabis through licensed, taxed storefronts.
The bill was initially denied on a 170 to 168 vote, but after the House passed an amendment to the bill a second vote was called and the bill passed on to the state Tax Committee with a 170 to 162 vote.
State Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a Republican from Manchester, says legalizing and taxing cannabis sales at $30 per ounce could net the state roughly $30 million in tax revenue each year. If passed, the bill would not take effect until July 2015.
“Passage of this bill would send a message that we recognize that times change,” Vaillancourt told the Associated Press.
Of course, the police groups in the state have already come out with their usual rhetoric. Patrick Sullivan, executive director of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police and interim chief of police for Goffstown, says the bill will send the wrong message to kids that marijuana use is okay. He tells Foster’s Daily Democrat that he has seen marijuana addiction ruin the lives of people in his community.
Sgt. Tim King of the New Hampshire Police Association (who clearly hasn’t done enough research) says marijuana is exponentially more dangerous than cigarettes. “We’re talking about the difference between bicycles and Mack trucks,” he said.
The bill now faces a long haul through the House Tax Committee, then back to the full House for another vote. If it gains approval, it would then have to move on to the senate and eventually to Gov. Maggie Hassan, who has said she would veto any marijuana legalization laws.
Something needs to happen, though. Currently, possession of any amount of cannabis is a misdemeanor charge in New Hampshire, with up to a year in jail and $2,000 in fines. Cultivation is usually charged as possession with intent to sell and is based on weight. Growers face anywhere from a three-year felony for less than an ounce all the way up to 20 years and $300,000 in fines for having five pounds or more (which isn’t hard to reach when cops weigh