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19-Year-Old New Hampshire Lawmaker Prepares Bills To Decriminalize Psilocybin And All Drugs



As New Hampshire lawmakers push to enact marijuana legalization in the state, broader drug policy reform may also be on the horizon, with one of the youngest state legislators in the U.S. now pushing for the decriminalization of psilocybin as well as all currently illicit substances.

The Granite State’s legislature is currently under GOP control, and that’s created complications for lawmakers hoping to join their neighbors in ending cannabis prohibition and establishing a regulated sales system. Rep. Tony Labranche (D) wants to see that policy change enacted, but he also has his eyes set on ending the drug war more holistically.

The 19-year-old state representative spoke with Marijuana Moment this week about his plans to push legislation to end the criminalization of people who use or possess so-called magic mushrooms and also generally decriminalize possession of any controlled substance.

“It’s the right thing to do. Personally, I don’t think anybody who suffers from substance use disorder should be criminalized, period,” Labranche said. “In some cases, like magic mushrooms, those aren’t the hard drugs that are dangerous. And I believe that people should have the right to use it and it should be legalized.”

Whether the legislature currently has the appetite to advance the bold drug reform proposals that Labranche is championing is yet to be seen. But at the very least, he’s helping to advance the conversation—and it’s a dialogue that’s increasingly being led by a younger generation of lawmakers.

Earlier this year, for example, a 20-year-old Kansas lawmaker introduced a bill to broadly decriminalize drug possession in the state.

Both Labranche and Kansas Rep. Aaron Coleman (D) said that they’ve been motivated by successful efforts to end drug criminalization in a growing number of jurisdictions, especially as it concerns marijuana and psychedelics.

Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,200 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

The strategy is “taking it one step at a time,” Labranche said. “I believe that it’s the natural progression. [Addiction is] a public health issue, it should not be a criminal justice issue.”

SpaceX founder Elon Musk also recently discussed the shifting political dynamics of psychedelics and predicted that, as younger generations assume positions of power in government, there will be a greater societal embrace of the therapeutic potential of such substances.

Labranche told Marijuana Moment that he was “especially pleased” to see Oregon voters approve a 2020 ballot initiative to decriminalize drug possession. He said that’s “the aim of what I would like New Hampshire to be like one day.”

The representative recognized, however, that his state has a ways to go before it could become a leader in drug policy reform. He said that marijuana legalization alone represents a steep tasks and, “I don’t see it happening in the near future due to the current political climate.” However, “incremental steps are the right way to go.”

The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled last year that a man convicted of possession of psilocybin mushrooms was wrongfully tried because his use of the psychedelic was part of his religious practices.

The text of Labranche’s proposed reforms is not yet available, but he has filed requests with the Office of Legislative Services to have the measures prepared for introduction for the 2022 session.

Another lawmaker, Rep. Stacie-Marie Laughton (D), also requested to have a bill drafted with the goal of “repealing the prohibitions on the possession of controlled drugs and increasing funding for substance abuse services.”

In the meantime, New Hampshire lawmakers have put forward a new strategy to legalize cannabis in the state that involves placing a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot for voters to decide on in 2022.

Standalone legalization legislation that’s been retained from this year is also set to be taken up when lawmakers reconvene early in 2022, and advocates are hopeful that it will advance based on prior votes in the House. The chamber passed a legalization bill last year, but it died in a Senate committee.

Gov. Chris Sununu (R) remains opposed to adult-use legalization, but advocates are encouraged that he recently signed a bill adding opioid use disorder as a qualifying condition for the state’s medical cannabis program and also allows out-of-state patients to access dispensaries.

In 2017, the governor signed a bill decriminalizing marijuana possession in the Granite State, though he continues to argue against adding a legal commercial cannabis sales component.

Separately, a New Hampshire Senate committee in March heard testimony on a House-passed bill to allow medical marijuana patients to grow a limited number of plants for personal use. But it was ultimately tabled in the full chamber.

In May, the governor also signed a bill adding insomnia and autism spectrum disorder as medical cannabis qualifying conditions.

Earlier this year, the House passed legislation to let medical cannabis patients grow their own medicine, but it did not clear the Senate.

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