Drugs

New Hampshire House Becomes First Legislative Body to Pass Bill Legalizing Recreational Pot

It was a close vote and Gov. Maggie Hassan vows to veto it, but legalization marches on.

Photo Credit: Jan Havlicek/Shutterstock.com

The New Hampshire House became the first legislative body Wednesday to pass a billlegalizing recreational marijuana. The bill is modeled on the laws passed by ballot initiative in Washington and Colorado, and would legalize up to an ounce of possession, tax and regulate distribution, and allow individuals to grow up to six plants.

The bill passed Wednesday only after it failed just an hour earlier. On a first vote, lawmakers voted to kill the bill by a margin of two. They then moved to reconsider the bill and voted 170-162 on favor.

While the vote was hailed by the Marijuana Policy Project as the first in a legislative chamber to support treating marijuana like alcohol, the bill has little chance of becoming law. The Senate has rejected even less aggressive decriminalization measures in the past, and Gov. Maggie Hassan vowed to veto the bill. In July, Hassan signed a medical marijuana bill.

Advocates are nonetheless hopeful that polling might change some lawmakers’ minds. A recent University of New Hampshire poll found that 60 percent of state residents support legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

Richard Van Wickler, Superintendent of Corrections in New Hampshire’s Cheshire County, said the house vote “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.” “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,” he added, in a statement issued by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition after the vote.

A number of states are now eyeing bills to reform their marijuana laws. Medical marijuana bills are moving into southern states, including South Carolina and Florida. In Florida, support for medical marijuana is viewed as a potentially decisive issue in the governor’s race. A decriminalization measure is poised to pass in Washington, D.C. And states eyeing legalization ballot initiatives include MassachusettsCalifornia, AlaskaArizona, and evenWyoming. Advocates are aiming for legislative legalization in several other states, including Rhode Island and Hawaii.

Nicole Flatow is the Deputy Editor of ThinkProgress Justice. Previously, she was Associate Director of Communications for the American Constitution Society. Nicole has also worked for several legal and general circulation newspapers, including The Daily Record and The New York Law Journal, and was a legal fellow at Bread for the City, where she represented low-income D.C. residents in housing and public benefits matters. She received her J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law, and her B.A. in Philosophy, Politics and Law from Binghamton University, where she was editor in chief of her campus newspaper

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