Legalizing pot campaign offers new blueprint for change

Supporters for legalizing marijuana unveiled their 2020 outline for the campaign that would allow adults to legally have and/or grow their own. Richard Van Wickler, superintendent of the Cheshire County Department of Corrections, speaks at a Thursday news conference representing the Law Enforcement Action Partnership.

CONCORD — Supporters of legalizing marijuana have shifted gears for the 2020 legislative session, pursuing a bill to permit adults to grow or possess pot while keeping it a crime to commercially sell the drug.

State Rep. Carol McGuire, R-Epsom, said the legalization campaign in 2019 got bogged down in the New Hampshire House of Representatives over the details for how best to tax and regulate commercial sale of the drug.

“This bill takes it out of the commercial realm and lets people grow their own and use it at home,” McGuire said at a news conference prior to a public hearing on the bill (HB 1648).

This bill permits any adult to have up to three-fourths of an ounce of cannabis, five grams of hashish and also be able to grow up to six plants at home.

Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, said the measure would allow adults to buy marijuana legally in Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont and bring it home to use here.

Recreational use of marijuana is legal in all of New Hampshire’s neighboring states.

“We now are kind of an island of prohibition in a sea of permissibility where adult recreational use is permitted,” Cushing said.

“If some adult has marijuana in their possession for personal use they are entitled to have it. Period.”

The legislation would also leave in place other laws that make it a crime to sell to a minor or to drive impaired by drugs, including marijuana.

Gov. Chris Sununu has opposed efforts to legalize marijuana.

In 2017 he did sign a law that eliminated jail time for possession of small amounts of the drug.

In 2013 then-governor and now U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan penned her name to legislation that allowed patients with eligible conditions to receive medical marijuana. There are a host of other bills this year to expand that program adding such conditions as autism to the list of qualifying illnesses.

The New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police remains opposed to legalizing marijuana use except for medical reasons. A spokesman for New Futures, a nonpartisan group that advocates for health and wellness, said that agency has “concerns” about how this legislation would be implemented.

But Jeanne Hruska, political director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, said this is a natural outgrowth of decriminalizing the drug.

“We see cannabis legalization as the next logical step for the state of New Hampshire to take,” Hruska said.

The state chapter of the fiscally-conservative Americans for Prosperity also supports the bill.

“The results of prohibition have never achieved the promises made and resulted in damage to society,” said Deputy Director Ross Connolly.

Matthew Simon has been working on the legalization cause for nearly a decade as New England director for the Marijuana Policy Project.

“It’s time for us to move forward and start doing this,” Simon said.

Last year, Sununu vetoed a separate bill to permit medical marijuana patients and their caregivers to grow their own marijuana.

Sunday, February 23, 2020
Friday, February 21, 2020