New Hampshire Marijuana Law Defeated Even Though Most People Wanted to Legalize

Once again the people are ahead of the politicians.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/ Jiri Flogel

Proponents of ending marijuana prohibition in the state of New Hampshire hoped to become the third state in the country, after Colorado and Washington, to legalize consumption of marijuana for adults over 21. Unfortunately, House Bill 492, which would have done exactly that, was defeated by a close vote in the New Hampshire House of Representatives Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. Both Republicans and Democrats sponsored the bill.

HB492 was modeled on the legislation that passed in Colorado and would have allowed individuals to cultivate up to six plants for personal use and would have set up a system for taxing and regulating the cultivation, production and sale of marijuana, including licensed and regulated marijuana retail stores.

Once again the people are ahead of the politicians. According to a new WMUR Granite State Poll released October 25 by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, 60% of New Hampshire adults support HB492. Just 36% said they are opposed. These numbers are consistent with a national Gallup poll that found a record breaking 58% of Americans support making marijuana legal, with only 39 % opposed. Support for legalization has increased 10 percentage points since last November when Colorado and Washington State legalized marijuana.

In “Live free or die” New Hampshire, possession of small amounts of marijuana can result in being charged with a Class "A" misdemeanor and being sentenced to one year in jail and up to a $2,000 fine.  Dealers of even small amounts of marijuana can be charged with a felony.

Matt Simon, a New Hampshire-based legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project commented in a press release:

"Most Americans are fed up with laws that criminalize adults for using an objectively less harmful substance than alcohol. It is time to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol. Sales should benefit legitimate, taxpaying businesses instead of cartels in the underground market. Law enforcement officials' time and resources should be spent addressing serious crimes, not arresting and prosecuting adults for using marijuana." 

But in an important victory in July of this year, New Hampshire became the 19th state to pass medical marijuana legislation. 

Helen Redmond is a freelance journalist and a drug and health policy analyst.

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