Now that marijuana prohibition has been brought down in Massachusetts and Maine, one of the most influential forces inside the halls of the New Hampshire legislature says he is prepared to get serious about passing a similar reform at the beginning of 2017.
On Friday, Senate Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn told the Concord Monitor that he fully intendeds to introduced legislation in the upcoming session aimed at creating a taxed and regulated cannabis market. The proposal, which would allow adults 21 and over to purchase marijuana in a manner similar to beer, would make New Hampshire the third state on the East Coast to legalize the leaf for recreational purposes.
However, even if the bill manages to find passage at some point in the new year, it would likely be some time before the average stoner could begin frequenting retail pot shops instead of the black market. That’s because Woodburn plans to push for the state’s recreational marijuana industry to launch around 2019 or 2020—not giving any indication as to why he prefers to wait.
Nevertheless, a move of this magnitude would be extremely beneficial in the grand scheme of New Hampshire pot laws. As it stands, it is the only one of the five New England states that continues to punish people caught in possession of small amounts of marijuana. The current mandate puts people at risk of being unjustly branded with a criminal record (misdemeanor) and even brings about the possibility of jail time.
It is for this reason that local marijuana advocates say they are encouraged by Woodburn’s decision to influence 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.”
But so far, New Hampshire lawmakers have been unsuccessful at even passing modest reforms, such as decriminalization. Although these types of bills have been mostly well received in the house, the senate has always ensured they die a miserable death in the final hours.
In the event that the New Hampshire legislature is able to come to some kind of agreement on this issue in the coming months, the bill stands a relatively solid chance at being signed into law.
Although Governor-elect Chris Sununu is not exactly the portrait of pro-marijuana politics, he did say recently in an interview with the Portsmouth Herald that he would be open to certain reforms, specifically decriminalization.
Earlier this year, a WMUR/Granit State Poll found that 62 percent of New Hampshire’s adult residents supports the legalization of marijuana.
Woodburn’s marijuana bill is expected to be revealed when the state legislature reconvenes in January.
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