Now that marijuana has been made legal in Massachusetts and Maine, one of the most powerful forces in the New Hampshire Senate has decided to put his weight behind the passing of a similar law when the legislative session reconvenes next year.
Senate Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn recently told the Concord Monitor that he plans to introduce legislation in January aimed at legalizing marijuana for recreational use. The proposal, which would give adults 21 and over the freedom to purchase cannabis products from dispensaries, would make New Hampshire the third New England state to end prohibition.
But even if the bill is well received, and the new Governor supports it in ink, it would likely be a while before people could begin buying weed legally. Woodburn says his plan involves prolonging the launch of the state’s recreational marijuana industry to sometime around 2019 or 2020.
Regardless, the bill could improve the overall quality of life across the state. As it stands, New Hampshire is the only New England jurisdiction that maintains criminal penalties for minor pot possession. The present standard defines this offense as a criminal misdemeanor, with a potential punishment of up to a year in jail and fines reaching $350.
Marijuana advocates are applauding Woodburn’s decision to push a bill of this magnitude in the Senate.
“I’m very, very pleased with Senator Woodburn’s decision to show leadership on the legalization issue,” Matt Simon, New England political director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. “It’s an issue that people are looking for leadership on, and there’s not been a lot of leadership in the senate.”
In recent years, New Hampshire lawmakers have failed to get even a modest reform, such as decriminalization, on the books. While these attempts have been successful in the House, the Senate has managed to kill them every time.
Although it seems unlikely that Governor-elect Chris Sununu will support full-blown legalization, he recently told the Portsmouth Herald that he is open to a decriminalization law.
The details of Woodburn’s marijuana bill will likely be revealed when the state legislature gets the band back together during the first week of January.