New Hampshire One Step Closer To Legalizing Marijuana

1/16/14 10:42AM EST

New Hampshire One Step Closer To Legalizing Marijuana New Hampshire One Step Closer To Legalizing Marijuana

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New Hampshire’s House voted Wednesday to legalize recreational marijuana. While it’s a big step toward legalization, experts say it’s still unlikely the measure will become a law.

The bill, modeled after the new regulations in Colorado, passed by a vote of 170-162 after 2.5 hours of debate. It aims to legalize up to an ounce of marijuana for anyone over the age of 21, with each ounce subject to a $30 tax. It would also allow individuals to grow up to six marijuana plants within a controlled environment.

The arguments for and against the bill were familiar ones, according to New Hampshire Public Radio.

This is not an innocuous drug,” Democratic Representative William Butynksi argued. “There are negative health impacts. Dependence. Today, about 1 in 11 adults who use marijuana become dependent.”

On the opposite side was Republican Representative Romeo Danais. “Smoking a joint in your home and not doing anything certainly is a victimless crime,” he argued. “If it was legal, it wouldn’t be a crime at all and it wouldn’t hurt anybody at all.”

Danais also argued against the idea of marijuana being a gateway drug. According to U.S. News, he remarked, “Everyone who has used heroin has at one point drinked milk.”

Democratic Representative Ruth Gage agreed, saying marijuana is already present in the state and that legalizing it with regulations would make it much safer. “We do know one thing: drug dealers don’t ask for ID.” She then argued, “Despite what we’ve been taught all our lives, marijuana is actually a far less harmful substance [than alcohol].”

A Long Battle

The bill is now in the hands of the Ways and Means Committee, charged with refining the proposed measures. Then it will go back to the House for another vote before going to the state Senate.

It isn’t likely to pass in the Senate, which last year rejected a similar bill, according to the Associated Press. That one would have decriminalized possession of up to a quarter of an ounce.

If the bill does pass through the House and the Senate, it will eventually make its way to Gov. Maggie Hassan, marking the biggest hurdle. Gov. Hassan signed a bill just a few months ago for legal medical marijuana, but she says she draws the line at recreational use.

I don’t support the decriminalization of marijuana any further, and I would veto it if it comes to my desk,” she told WMUR. She added, “We have some challenges in our state when it comes to substance abuse. We need to be focusing on that, and I just think it’s the wrong message to send to young people.”

A two-thirds vote in favor of the bill in both the House and the Senate would be necessary to overturn Gov. Hassan’s veto.

Unlikely To Survive, But Still Historic

The bill is unlikely to become a law anytime soon, but it’s important for other reasons.
The New Hampshire House vote marks the first time a U.S. legislative body voted in favor of legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

Colorado and Washington, the only states with legal recreational weed, legalized the substance via voter referendums.

Indeed, if the issue were left to the general public, there’s little doubt it would pass. According to WMUR, a poll conducted in October found that 60 percent of New Hampshire residents supported legal recreational weed, while only 36 percent opposed it.