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Marijuana as crime in NH continues after vote

CONCORD - Using marijuana will continue to be a criminal act in New Hampshire after the Senate on Thursday killed a bill to reduce the penalty for possession of less than a quarter-ounce of marijuana to a violation or the equivalent of jaywalking.

Senate members said House Bill 621 was fatally flawed as it would require both the possession of a small amount of marijuana and the sale, distribution or cultivation of the drug for someone to be guilty of a violation.

The bill also requires a treatment program for minors that does not exist and does not have a graduated penalty for repeat offenders, according to Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester.

She noted the bill would allow a four-year-old to possess the drug, which would make New Hampshire the only state in the union to treat the underage use of marijuana more leniently than alcohol and tobacco.

But she said the bill requires law enforcement to meet the same burden of proof for a violation conviction as a misdemeanor including testing the substance at the state lab.

The Senate also blocked legalizing industrial hemp as an agricultural crop.

House bill 153 would remove industrial hemp from the controlled drug section of criminal law. The bill will be studied for a year.

Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, said the bill does not define industrial hemp.

She said Kentucky is about to implement a similar bill and her committee believes the state should wait and see that state's results. Industrial hemp is still illegal under federal law, she noted.

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