Move Represents First Time Legalization Has Gone Through A State Legislature
The New Hampshire House of Representatives on Wednesday voted 170-162 in favor of passing HB 492, a bill to legalize, regulate and control marijuana for adults over 21, becoming the first state legislature to approve such a bill. Two other states, Colorado and Washington, have already legalized marijuana, but in both cases those laws were implemented through voter initiative.
From here the bill will be reviewed by the House Ways and Means Committee then be reconsidered by the House and, if it passes again, move to the Senate for consideration.
“By passing this bill, the New Hampshire House has proven the legalization of marijuana is a politically viable, mainstream issue with the potential to improve public safety and benefit the community in numerous ways,” said Cheshire County Superintendent of Corrections Richard Van Wickler, a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the War On Drugs. “This state now has an opportunity to modernize its views and recalibrate its moral compass in a way that provides an example of leadership the rest of the country will soon follow.”
Van Wickler pointed to the amount of time police and courts waste pursuing marijuana offenses, the way profits from marijuana sales end up financing violent criminal gangs rather than state coffers, the racial disparities involved in marijuana arrests and the effect of arrest on those ensnared in the criminal justice system as among the reasons he wants to legalize marijuana.“When after 40 years of trying to eradicate its use more than 100 million Americans — including our last three presidents — admit to having used marijuana, it’s time to recognize this is a problem that cannot be solved by law enforcement and change these laws which have already irreparably damaged too many citizens’ lives,” Van Wickler said. “Criminal justice professionals are hired to improve public safety, but enforcing marijuana laws has the opposite effect.”
The bill was introduced by Rep. Steve Vaillancourt (R-Manchester) with four bipartisan co-sponsors and would put the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration in charge of licensing and regulating sales, production and testing of the product and enact two taxes: a wholesale tax of $30 per ounce and a sales tax of 15 percent.
Adults over 21 would be able to buy up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants in a controlled environment for personal use.
Although Gov. Maggie Hassan has expressed opposition to signing the bill, supporters hope polls showing 60 percent of New Hampshire adults support the bill or the $17 million Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron estimated New Hampshire spends on the prohibition of marijuana every year will change her mind.