Connect with us

Politics

New Hampshire House Passes Marijuana Legalization Bill

Published

on

A bill to legalize marijuana in New Hampshire was approved by the state House of Representatives on Wednesday.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Robert “Renny” Cushing (D), would allow adults 21 and older to possess, gift, consume, cultivate and purchase certain amounts of cannabis from licensed retailers.

A governor-appointed commission would be responsible for approving and issuing licenses for commercial marijuana cultivators, product manufacturers, testing facilities and retailers under the bill. A separate, 11-member panel would be established to solicit public and expert input on the legal market in order to inform the commission.

The floor vote comes one week after the chamber’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee advanced the bill in a 10-9 vote. The full chamber voted 209-147 in favor of the legislation.

“We’ve been dealing with what I think of as a failed war on cannabis for 85 years, and it’s time to bring that to an end,” Cushing said in a debate on the floor prior to the vote. “The war on marijuana has had adverse impact upon our society… The damage that’s done by prohibition of cannabis is at least equal to the damage done by the prohibition of alcohol.”

Legalization advocates celebrated the legislation’s passage.

“The House vote highlights just how little support remains for maintaining marijuana prohibition in the Granite State,” Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a press release. “There is no reason to continue punishing adults for consuming a substance that is less harmful than alcohol, and it is counterproductive to force them into a potentially dangerous illegal market to access it.”

“HB 481 offers New Hampshire a sensible alternative, and we will continue working to build support for the bill in the House as it is considered by the Ways and Means Committee,” he said, referring to the fact that it must now head to a separate committee for further action before going to the Senate.

Aside from legalizing future marijuana use, the bill would also create a pathway for individuals to expunge past convictions for cannabis offenses that are made legal under the law.

While Gov. Chris Sununu (R) has vowed to veto cannabis legalization if it arrives on his desk, House Speaker Steve Shurtleff (D) feels there’s enough support in the House to override a veto—and that the same might be true of the Senate.

Last year, the same House committee that narrowly passed the current bill rejected a prior legalization proposal. But the full House voted to overturn that recommendation, although subsequent committee action stymied the legislation—which unlike this year’s bill did not include provisions to legalize and regulate cannabis commerce—from moving to the Senate.

In 2014, the New Hampshire House of Representatives became the first legislative chamber in U.S. history to approve a marijuana legalization bill, though it later died in the Senate.

If the new legislation is ultimately passed and signed into law, possession and cultivation for personal use would be allowed after 60 days. Retail licenses would be issued on or before November 30, 2020.

Separately, another New Hampshire subcommittee unanimously endorsed legislation on Tuesday that would allow medical marijuana patients in the state to cultivate their own cannabis for therapeutic use.

Elsewhere, legislative committees in Hawaii, New Mexico and Vermont have voted to approve marijuana legalization bills this month.

A bill to legalize cannabis sales in Vermont is expected to receive a floor vote in the state Senate on Thursday.

Vermont Senate Expected To Vote On Legal Marijuana Sales Bill This Week

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

Politics

Cory Booker Endorses Bill To Legalize Marijuana In New Jersey

Published

on

Efforts to legalize marijuana in New Jersey received a high-profile endorsement on Friday, with U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) voicing support for the bill in a statement.

The senator, who is a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and also sponsored congressional legislation to end federal cannabis prohibition, is the latest in a growing list of political leaders who’ve advocated for the bill, which was approved by state Senate and Assembly committees earlier this week and is expected to receive floor votes in both chambers on Monday.

“New Jersey is the first state in the country to couple decriminalizing marijuana with strong criminal justice reform measures to redress the decades of immense harm inflicted by an unfair system,” Booker said. “All too often, communities of color and low-income individuals are unjustly impacted by our broken drug policies, but by including measures to expunge records and reinvest in the communities most impacted, our state has the opportunity to lead in prioritizing social justice.”

The bill’s focus on social equity provisions has been critical in shoring up support as the legislature gets closer to a vote. Gov. Phil Murphy (D) has been putting out calls to advocates and lawmakers to get the legislation advanced, which would fulfill a campaign promise of his.

“With this bill, New Jersey legislators can send a strong message to the country that marijuana legalization and social justice must be inextricably linked,” Booker said. “I’m hopeful our state will succeed in setting this example.”

It’s been a complicated process to form a coalition united around passing legalization in New Jersey. Disagreements between the governor and lawmakers about certain aspects of the bill such as tax rates and regulatory structures were finally resolved earlier this month when a compromise was reached. And amendments to expand expungement provisions gave the mayors of the state’s two largest cities proper assurance to back the legislation.

That said, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka (D) and Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop (D) continue to push for automatic expungements, as opposed to virtual expungements. Murphy said that automatic expungements is not a feasible policy.

“Now more than ever, we must work together,” the mayors said in a statement on Friday. “Again, we stand in unison in support of this legislation that could potentially become New Jersey’s law. We should aim to become a model state from which other states can clearly follow. We should address these issues in a manner that protects our communities and the people that live here.”

On Thursday, the governor’s office also released a list of quotes from lawmakers, activists and spiritual leaders voicing support for the legalization legislation.

“If we have learned anything at all, it is that the status quo has been disproportionately unfair to minority communities,” Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D) said. “This bill is a step in the right direction to correct that inequality.”

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D) agreed, saying the legalization bill will “advance social justice, legal justice and economic justice in meaningful ways.”

“This is an opportunity for continued progress as we strive for a society that respects the rights of everyone,” he said.

Whether the legislation will be approved is yet to be seen. NJ.com is keeping track of where lawmakers currently stand on the bill, and as of Friday afternoon their online whip count shows that a majority in the Senate plan to vote against it, while votes allocated so far in the Assembly are roughly even.

New Jersey Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Legalization Bill

Photo courtesy of Jamelle Bouie.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading

Politics

Connecticut Lawmakers Hold Two Simultaneous Hearings On Marijuana Legalization Bills

Published

on

Two Connecticut committees held hearings on bills to legalize marijuana and expand the state’s medical cannabis program on Friday.

The proposed legislation would permit adults 21 and older to possess, purchase and consume certain amounts of marijuana for personal use. The House bill also includes a number of social equity provisions that are meant to encourage people from communities that were disproportionately impacted by prohibition to participate in the legal industry.

While reform advocates generally support the bills, they’ve also made a series of recommendation to increase the focus on restorative justice and to include policies such as allowing home cultivation.

In the legislature’s General Law Committee, witnesses including a commissioner for the state’s medical cannabis program and social equity advocates testified about HB 7371. That bill would establish a governor-appointed commission to regulate the industry, give licensing priority to individuals from communities most impacted by the drug war and require the commission to conduct a study on permitting a home grow option and microbusinesses.

“The time has come to move this forward. We think this is a fantastic start [and] there is definitely some amazing language in here,” Jason Ortiz, president of Connecticut United for Reform and Equity (CURE), said at the hearing. “There’s just some other pieces that we think undermine the really good parts that we can strike out and maybe amend and move the basic ideas forward.”

Advocates want to change the legislation so that home cultivation and microbusinesses are allowed from the outset, for example.

“Marijuana prohibition was borne of misinformation and racism and it continues to be enforced unequally to this day,” Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), testified.

Over in the Judiciary Committee, experts dedicated significant time to testimony about the public health and safety impacts of cannabis legalization. Lawmakers pressed the witnesses on issues such as labeling requirements, what kinds of edibles should be allowed, impaired driving and the mental health affects of consuming high-THC marijuana varieties.

The bill before that panel, SB 1085, would also legalize cannabis for adult use. But the legislation has a focus on expungements for individuals with prior marijuana convictions for possession of 1.5 ounces or less.

As with the House bill, advocates are supportive of the spirit of the legislation but feel certain provisions fall short. For example, MPP said that expungements should apply to convictions for any kind of cannabis conviction. The organization also called for a home grow option, which is not included in either legalization bill under consideration.

Two other pieces of cannabis legislation were discussed at the Judiciary committee hearing. One would create a misdemeanor penalty for driving while consuming marijuana and provide $500,000 in funding for law enforcement to train officers as drug recognition experts. The other bill specifies that employers don’t have to provide special accommodations for employees who use cannabis while working.

As one of the states considered most likely to legalize cannabis in 2019, the hearings offer another example of how the conversation around reform has shifted from “should it be legal” to “how should it be legal,” with the hearings largely concentrated on defining and promoting social equity provisions.

If either bill makes it through the legislature, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) is expected to sign.

He’s called the issue one of his “priorities” for the current legislative session and spoke about the issue during a budget speech last month.

Committee votes are expected on Monday.

Military Veterans Organizations Press Congress On Medical Marijuana Research

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading

Politics

GOP Lawmakers Want Marijuana Banking Vote Delayed In Congress

Published

on

A key congressional committee is scheduled to vote on far-reaching legislation that would expand marijuana businesses’ ability to store their profits in banks on Tuesday.

But key Republican lawmakers on the panel are now asking Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) to delay the vote.

Please visit Forbes to read the rest of this piece.

(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)

Read the full letter seeking a delay in the marijuana banking vote below:

GOP seeks delay on marijuan… by on Scribd

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Continue Reading
Advertisement

Stay Up To The Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox


Support Marijuana Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox