The New Hampshire House of Representatives just passed a bill that would legalize weed without establishing any limitations, regulations or taxes.
The new legislation, sponsored by state Rep. Kevin Verville (R), may just be the simplest legalization bill ever proposed in the US. Instead of laying out hundreds of pages of rules and regulations, the bill would simply remove cannabis from the state's list of controlled substances. All criminal penalties for weed-related crimes would be removed from the state's criminal statutes, and anyone with a past or pending cannabis conviction would be eligible to have their records cleared.
The bill does include a few minor restrictions, though. Public consumption would remain prohibited, but would be considered a violation, not a criminal offense. And while the proposal would fully legalize weed for adults, it would only decriminalize it for minors. Anyone under 18 who is busted with pot would have to report for a substance misuse assessment, and those between 18 and 21 could be charged with a violation and forced to pay a fine.
Verville's bill isn't New Hampshire's only shot at legalization, either. Last month, the state House also passed a more traditional legalization bill that would restrict cannabis use to adults, impose personal possession limits, and ban home grows. Retail sales would be allowed, but subject to the same kinds of quality control regulations and taxes seen in other adult-use states.
But although the state House is clearly committed to cannabis reform, most state Senators strongly oppose recreational legalization. The House has passed several legalization bills in the past few years, but the Senate has shut them all down. Governor Chris Sununu (R) is also opposed to legalization, although he did recently acknowledge that reform is “inevitable.”
“We’ve been at this for years and still struggling to get it done,” said state Rep. Jodi Newell (D), Marijuana Moment reports. “The people of New Hampshire favor legalization. So far, we have failed them.”
Verville is hoping to break through the opposition by keeping his legalization bill as simple and short as possible. “When bills get complicated and they get long and they get confused, people vote against them,” he explained, according to Marijuana Moment. “This is the shortest, easiest way to affect the change that the majority of our constituents want—and that is the legalization of cannabis.”
So far, the tactic has been a success. A House committee did vote to kill Verville's bill, but a majority of Representatives overruled the committee's decision. The bill was then fully approved by the House in a voice vote and then sent to the Senate. Its fate remains unclear, but advocates are confident that the opposition will eventually accept the common-sense necessity of cannabis reform.
The bill's proponents “felt that as New Hampshire is the lone state in New England that still criminalizes cannabis, there is a high likelihood that New Hampshire citizens who want to obtain and use cannabis products, probably already are,” the House majority report explains. “They felt that if that is the case, by keeping it criminal we are accomplishing nothing other than exposing more citizens to potential criminal justice system involvement.”
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