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House votes to legalize marijuana possession, home cultivation

State House Bureau

January 09. 2018 11:13AM
The New Hampshire House voted Tuesday in favor of a bill that would legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and allow for home cultivation. 

CONCORD — The New Hampshire House voted 207-139 Tuesday in favor of a bill that would legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, as well as a home-grow provision but no retail sales or taxation.

The vote came just days after the Vermont House voted, 83-61, to approve a similar bill, legalizing possession by adults of up to an ounce of marijuana and allowing individuals to grow up to six marijuana plants at home.

The New Hampshire bill still has a long way to go, including a review by the House Ways and Means Committee, which could trigger another House vote; as well as a vote in the Senate, where opposition is strong.

Gov. Chris Sununu signed a decriminalization bill into law last year, but has said he is not in favor of full legalization for recreational use.

"People's views on this subject are evolving," said Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, who expressed hope the governor will sign a legalization bill if it reaches his desk.

Patrick Abrami, R-Stratham, chairman of a commission appointed by the state Legislature last year to study legalization, urged the House to allow the commission to complete its work.

"It seems like we're putting the cart before the horse," he said.

Cushing said there is still much work to do to determine the path forward in terms of commercial sales, taxation and state controls, if the bill becomes law.

"I applaud the work the commission is doing," Cushing said. "Passing the amendment as proposed does not interfere with the work of the commission, but enhances it, because if we make it legal, the commission can address the question of how it enters into commerce."

The House Criminal Justice Committee had voted 13-7 against HB 656, but the House dispensed with that "inexpedient to legislate" recommendation on Tuesday in a 183-162 vote before adopting an "ought to pass" motion.

The same thing happened in 2014, when the House overturned its committee recommendation and voted to legalize marijuana.

That bill died after a promised veto by then-Gov. Maggie Hassan.

The Commission to Study the Legalization, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana in New Hampshire held its first meeting in October and has until November 2018 to submit its recommendations to the Legislature.

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Thank you, Sununu