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NH House passes first recreational marijuana bill

Staff Writer

Published: Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Updated: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 00:01

Following the national tide of public opinion favoring the legalization of marijuana, the Democrat-controlled New Hampshire house passed a bill – HB 492-FN-LOCAL – on Jan. 16 that would legalize marijuana for recreational use. 

In passing the bill, the New Hampshire House made history by becoming the first legislative body to pass a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana. 

There are currently only two states in the Union – Colorado and Washington – where recreational marijuana is legal, and both states’ laws were passed through public referendum, as opposed to legislative action. 

The bill aims to construct laws regarding marijuana consumption, possession, and distribution similar to the state’s established alcohol laws, effectively treating marijuana as a controlled substance. The current draft of the bill breaks down its intentions into three laws: first, the bill states that only persons 21 and older have the legal right to the new law – persons under 21 are prohibited from engaging with marijuana; second, persons with the intention to wholesale, retail, cultivate or test marijuana must obtain proper licensing; third, that a tax on the sale of marijuana be levied at both wholesale, manufacturing and retail levels. 

As Colorado and Washington garner more national attention – serving as a litmus test for future nationwide legalization – the local media spotlight will be on the New Hampshire Ways and Means Committee. The committee is scheduled to meet this Thursday to revise the Bill before it is sent back to the House, where it is likely to pass again, according to Laura McCrystal of the Concord Monitor. McCrystal is basing this prediction on sources in the Merrimack County. 

Despite promising momentum for proponents of the bill, New Hampshire residents are unlikely to see dispensaries next to their local grocer anytime soon.

Governor Maggie Hassan has publicly stated she is against legalizing recreational use, affirming in a statement to WMUR that “it’s the wrong message to send to young people” and she would further veto any such bill that made it to her desk. 

This hardline position against recreational marijuana comes not six months after Governor Hassan signed House Bill 573, effectively legalizing the state-wide use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. New Hampshire is presently one of 20 states to allow marijuana for medicinal purposes.

In a WMUR poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, it was found that more than half (51 percent) of adult residents support legalizing marijuana for recreational use. The support increased to 60 percent when those polled were explained the details of HB-492,  the bill currently under amendment in the House Ways and Means Committee.

“The whole point of elected officials is to be the voice of the people, right?” junior and environmental science major Conor Madison said, when asked his opinion on Hassan’s promise to veto HB-492 against public opinion. “We’ve got acres on acres of forest, the people know what those woods are good for; it’s a shame the New Hampshire government doesn’t.” 

The House voted 170-162 in favor of HB-492, though not strictly across party lines. Marijuana legalization has characteristically been divided between party lines – Democrats voting in favor of legalization and Republicans against. In the New Hampshire legislature 106 Democrats and 64 Republicans voted for the Bill, with 82 Democrats and 79 Republicans voted against. 

Governor Hassan, a Democrat, opposes the bill. On the behalf of the Governor, her staff posted a Facebook status on Jan. 16, following the House ruling that read, in part: “She [Governor Hassan] does not support further efforts to legalize marijuana … the Governor believes we should focus on addressing our substance use challenges and strengthening public health through measures like Medicaid expansion.” The Facebook post currently has 129 likes and 1,372 comments, the vast majority of which oppose the governor’s position.

While the moral arguments for and against legalizing recreational marijuana elude party classification, the language of the bill focuses heavily on the State’s fiscal impact. 

Major sources of financial gain from the bill are derived from a combination of a tax levy and saved public resources that can be allocated to more serious crimes or projects. 

The bill states a planned tax on retailers and manufacturers at $30 per ounce and a 15 percent sales tax. The Department of Revenue Administration at this time cannot determine the fiscal impact on the state the bill would have, but general estimations regarding savings are outlined in the bill by referencing the freed resources that the bill would grant.

Under current state law regarding the possession and sale of marijuana, anyone found with under an ounce of marijuana is guilty of a class A misdemeanor – subject to a maximum of one year in prison and a $2,000 fine. Persons caught selling or with possession-with-intent-to-sell are subject to felony charges contingent on the amount of marijuana the individual was caught with. Felony charges range from a minimum of three years in prison and a $25,000 fine for under an ounce, to 20 years in prison and a $300,000 for amounts of five pounds or greater. 

HB-492 would legalize possession under an ounce, and do away with felony- level charges. The bill estimates savings could be $275 per misdemeanor and $756.25 per felony. Further, in cases where assigned counsel attorneys were used there could be savings of up to $1,300 for a misdemeanor and $4,100 for a felony charge. 

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Sun Feb 23 2014 20:24
Pack your bags maggie your out of here. Live free or die NH doesnt stand for this s***
Jeff D III
Sun Feb 23 2014 14:02
I'm a successful mechanical engineer from a large conglomerate medical device firm. Every once and a while I like to get "stoned" and I think it's no one's business to go between weed and myself at the privacy of my own home. I don't find pleasure in beer, tobacco, cars, black ponies, white walls, blue grass songs, california quails, grey cockatiels in brazil, or skydiving. I do find pleasure in toking a jay once in a while, ice cream, walks down quiet parks and noisy cities, hiking, watching tv once and a while, football, and other things. When you find a correlation between A, B, and/or C, I can care less what you think and how you got there. Stop finding excuses to hinder recreational weed laws; ie the "gateway drug". In my opinion, I think people who pursue the execution of our pursuit of happiness in our own way at the expense of stranger's bad childhood tragedy and insecurity to expand their consciousness is extremely unfair to those who were not unlucky to grow up in those sad and backwards circumstances. Why do I have to pay for your beliefs and why are we afraid of facts and these bigots?
Tue Feb 18 2014 09:16
With state run liquor stores and her face on beer, not much she says or does on this matter has any credibility. Shame on her. And shame on the rest that oppose this bill.
Thu Feb 13 2014 23:08
Please use common sense, our elected officials, and understand that a plant from the earth in its natural form; weather smoked or not will not cause harm. Abuse is another subject.

I guess the broader question would be "Do our own elected officials understand world history and in particular, marijuana world history?" - Because I feel, that if they did they would understand with a sense of perspective, the befits of something that is God given as apposed to what they have been told to believe.

It's an herb, it has many uses, for ages beyond comprehension man has use herbs to help himself with the sufferings of the world.

Mon Feb 10 2014 00:47
Maggie hassan really isn't that much of a democrat and seems to support communism a domocracy is where the government is ruled byt he 170 people that said yes not the 1 that said no if your trying to protect children its not really going to make a difference its not going to be any easier for them to get their hands on I would keep it away from them its not like I'm gonna go buy some weed and give it to my child and he sure as hell isn't going to pick my pocket and get it off of me all of us taxpayers are pretty much just throwing our money in the trash because of the amount spent on enforcing prohibition we could so easily make it back in a day If its legal and taxed all your doing is pissing us off and trying to throw america into a state of communism whereall of the people vote for something... Too bad one governer dosnt want it
Mon Feb 3 2014 22:08
Our NH democrat governor, a rubber stamp echo of our pothead, lines-snorting, beer-drinking president (factual history, and by his own admission), has the ordasity to veto a Bill passed by her own party and president's party, Democrat majority in the NH House, --and to offer up her primary concern is substance use by the young....who are banned at under 21, the same as NH alcohol, and which state is the only vendor which hard alcohol can be purchased. So, governor, how does that work out for you, among the young? Did you miss the part Prohibition of alcohol was counterproductive? And to top it off, her stated focus is to expand Medicaid, "instead." Where is it required to trade one for the other? Nowhere! --- What are you really up to you figure the Republican Senate in NH might actually pass this Bill therefore gain a kudo? In fact you're doing the same thing former governor Lynch was famous for, veto power, forcing a 2/3rds majority instead of the 50+% majority you got elected on. After all our infamous president makes the same threats. Anything he doesn't like, he chooses to veto, rather than not-signing wherein it becomes law BECAUSE of the majority of the representatives of the people who are tasked to MAKE the laws. Sure looks like dictatorship is on a roll, isn't it, comrade? If you truly want to do something for our youth, become a champion and drive common core out of NH. Charity begins at home. Corruption begins with government from the top, down, instead of from the bottom, up.
Portsmouth Mike
Thu Jan 30 2014 22:46
How can Gov. Hassan keep a straight face when talking about substance abuse or sending messages to children? Does she know about the big, red, state run liquor stores on both sides of every major highway? I guarantee you more people died on NH's roads last year in alcohol related accidents than have died of marijuana since the state was first inhabited by man. I grew up in NH and I can also tell you that marijuana was easier to get than alcohol as a teenager. That sketchy dude in a van who sold us weed never ID'd anyone. But good luck with that prohibition thing, Governor. You're going to need it. If you care about the kids, legalize and regulate all drugs. Offer treatment to those who need it (it's far cheaper than prison) and leave everyone else to live free or die, like the number plates say.
Mike Parent
Thu Jan 30 2014 12:03
Annonymous, Get a clue, you're overdue! You're parroting propaganda from the Prohibitionist's Handbook. Here is the truth. I challenge you to refute it with science, not propaganda.
FACT Marijuana is NOT a Gateway Drug. Here's a 12 Yr Univ Study that says so;.
Media overview;

FACT Marijuana is less addictive and less harmful than Caffeine, let alone Alcohol and Tobacco; (3 Scientific Studies)
BTW, Dr Henningfield is a former NIDA Staffer;.
Addictiveness of Marijuana -

As for potency, Bacardi 151 is 75% alcohol and Beer is 5% alcohol. People just use less of the more potent version. UNLIKE alcohol, MJ cannot cause an OD regardless of the amount ingested.

Brian Kelly
Tue Jan 28 2014 17:30
The "War on Marijuana" has been a complete and utter failure. It is the largest component of the broader yet equally unsuccessful "War on Drugs" that has cost our country over a trillion dollars.

Instead of The United States wasting Billions upon Billions more of our tax dollars fighting a never ending "War on Marijuana", lets generate Billions of dollars, and improve the deficit instead. It's a no brainer.

The Prohibition of Marijuana has also ruined the lives of many of our loved ones. In numbers greater than any other nation, our loved ones are being sent to jail and are being given permanent criminal records which ruin their chances of employment for the rest of their lives, and for what reason?

Marijuana is much safer, and healthier to consume than alcohol. Yet do we lock people up for choosing to drink?

Let's end this hypocrisy now!

The government should never attempt to legislate morality by creating victim-less "crimes" because it simply does not work and costs the taxpayers a fortune.

Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that's approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!

Tue Jan 28 2014 15:24
The "pot" of this century is not the pot of our grandfather or grandmother's day. Today's marijuana is much stronger and never lost its "value" as a "gateway" drug to harder drugs. Most stoners learned their lesson when they were young, and kicked the habit or it kicked them. NH House disgusts me.
Tue Jan 28 2014 13:01
This could most definitely hurt the governor. Gone are the days when being for marijuana legalization relegates politicians to the fringe and hurts their chances for re-election. Now when they go against legalization they are going against the will of the people. Support for legalization just keeps growing and it will continue to grow. This is no fad. It has been coming for a long time as those who smoked marijuana when it first became popular in the Sixties have gotten older while those who came before them die off, and many many more have come since and have done their thing with pot and even though most don't smoke it anymore they know it's not that much of a threat and that this ban doesn't work, never will, and it just costs a lot of money and does far more harm than good. According to federal statistics over half of all American adults under 65 have smoked marijuana and every day something like 10,000 Baby Boomers much more likely to have smoked marijuana than those who came before them reach the age of 65. It's over. The sooner we legalize and regulate this entirely unregulated multi-billion dollar industry the better.

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