An effort to legalize marijuana in New Hampshire may live free for a while, but it will almost certainly die.
In the wake of the Granite State’s vote to approve medical marijuana, lawmakers introduced a bill to legalize. But even supporters acknowledge the idea isn’t going anywhere soon.
The state House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted recently to recommend the full House of Representatives kill the legislation. According to Foster’s Daily Democrat, there probably won’t even be much of a debate on the issue.
“I’ve never been encouraged that (the legislation) would pass,” said state Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a Republican and a sponsor of the bill. “I’ve always seen it as a step toward the goal of future passage. What really encourages me are the Gallup and UNH polls within the past few weeks. Even should we get this bill out of the House, I doubt it has much chance in the Senate, but the discussion will continue.”
A recent Gallup poll found that 58 percent of Americans want to legalize pot, the first time support has passed 50 percent. A poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center found 60 percent of the state’s residents back legal weed.
A number of other states are considering legalization, including California, Alaska and Arizona. Most are approaching the issue by ballot initiative rather than legislation, since voters seem to have progressed further on the issue than politicians.
Colorado and Washington State became the first to legalize cannabis, when voters approved initiatives last year. The New Hampshire proposal is modeled after Colorado’s new law.
People 21 and older would be able to possess up to one ounce of pot. Retail stores, licensed by the state, would sell the weed, and growing and testing sites would also be licensed. The state would levy a 15 percent tax on sales, plus a $30 tax per ounce.
The system would bring in about $20 million to $30 million yearly, Vaillancourt said.
Legalizing marijuana was a considerable risk in 2012, when the federal government still took the position that it would crack down on any violation of federal law. Any possession, sale, transfer or cultivation of marijuana violates federal law.
But times have changed. The Department of Justice announced in August that it won’t interfere with states that legalize as long as they enforce certain federal priorities, such as preventing drug violence, and keeping pot away from gangs and cartels.
That has opened the door for more states to consider an end to prohibition. For the time being, many such attempts are long-shots. That includes New Hampshire’s brief flirtation with retail green.