Marijuana Legalization

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Last week, the city of Dover became the first New Hampshire municipality to raise their smoking age from 18 to 21. The new city ordinance prohibits anyone under 21 from buying, using or possessing tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and vaping devices. We look at what kind of impact this law may have on the Dover community, and the state as a whole, and look at similar legislation in Maine and Massachusetts. 

Later in the hour, an update on marijuana legalization across New England. 

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New England may still be the next U.S. frontier for legal cannabis; just don't try shopping for it quite yet.

After early successes for the cannabis industry in western states, the region seemed the next logical foothold. But while its famous independent streak, liberal politics and ample supply of college activism all made for fertile ground, the legalization movement has often collided with old-fashioned Yankee sensibilities — particularly in towns weary of the stigma around pot.

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It’s the summer of weed for neighboring states that have legalized recreational marijuana. The road to New Hampshire, though, remains one big “pot” hole.

Pot is still illegal here.

It’s a point underscored in an interview with Tuftonborough Police Chief Andrew Shagoury, president of the N.H. Association of Chiefs of Police.

Marijuana Legalization Added to N.H. Democrats' Platform

Jun 24, 2018

 

Marijuana legalization is now part of the New Hampshire Democratic Party platform.

Democrats meeting in Stratham for their convention on Saturday supported recreational use of pot for adults. 

"We believe that marijuana should be legalized, taxed and regulated," the resolution reads.

State delegates also approved a resolution advocating the removal of marijuana from the federal list of Schedule I drugs, those considered most dangerous, like heroin and cocaine.

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New Hampshire's Senate Minority Leader plans to file legislation to legalize and tax marijuana in the upcoming legislative session.

Democrat Jeff Woodburn announced the renewed push following President Trump signaling he is willing to support a bipartisan marijuana legalization effort that respects states' rights.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

The commission studying marijuana legalization in New Hampshire is watching Massachusetts as pot shops become legal there on July 1.

Ed Shemelya says it could present some unique challenges—even in the Granite State.

Shemeleya is coordinator of the National Marijuana Initiative, a federal anti-drug effort focused on marijuana data. He addressed the study commission on behalf of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program, established by the White House office of National Drug Control Policy.

The chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party has announced his support for including marijuana legalization in the party's platform.

Ray Buckley says he joins Molly Kelly and Steve Marchand, the two candidates for the Democratic nomination for governor, in support of legalization, regulation and taxation. He says he's willing to co-sponsor an amendment and vote for the platform change at the party convention June 23.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

  A bill heading to Governor Sununu’s desk aims to address issues of access within the state’s medical marijuana program.

Earlier this month the House and Senate agreed to a plan to allow for an additional two dispensaries.

There are now centers in Dover, Lebanon, Merrimack, and Plymouth.  

Senator John Reagan, a prime sponsor of the bill, says this isn't enough.

Juulvapor.com

The commission studying marijuana legalization in New Hampshire got a crash course Monday in "Juuling"—the  e-cigarette vaping that's become a craze among high school students.

Jill Burke, interim prevention administrator for the New Hampshire Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services, says some young people are using various vaping devices with oils derived from cannabis.

“It is the size of a USB stick and they’re using these products in schools and colleges, and they’re using these products with THC oils and derivatives,” she said.

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As a state commission on the issue meets again, we look at the debate in New Hampshire. We also talk to reporters from Maine and Massachusetts about how marijuana legalization is playing out in their states. 

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Six months ago, the State Police Forensic Laboratory had a backlog of about 3,600 cases. It’s now down to 1,600, and analysts are steadily chipping away at the number of controlled drug cases.

There are a few reasons for the progress, Director Timothy Pifer says. They’ve hired two extra chemists, for one.

Another factor: Marijuana decriminalization.

New Hampshire’s state law eliminating jail time for possession of a small amount of marijuana took effect in September of 2017.

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In the debate over legalizing marijuana in New Hampshire, advocates have said it should be regulated like alcohol.

So, it makes some sense that the New Hampshire State Liquor Commission would be a potential go-to agency to regulate it, should the Granite State one day permit retail sale of recreational pot. 

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

A House committee voted Monday to recommend that a bill to legalize marijuana be sent to interim study.

It's the second time the legislation has come out of a committee with a negative recommendation–advocates view the “interim study” recommendation as "an egregious attempt" to kill the bill. In January, the full House overturned a committee recommendation to pass the bill.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Lawmakers took more testimony Tuesday for and against a bill to legalize recreational marijuana.

Those who support legalizing marijuana say the time has come. Opponents argued the bill is an effort by advocates to get a toehold for the marijuana industry in New Hampshire.

 

Dr. William Goodman, Medical Director at Catholic Medical Center, opposed the bill on behalf of the New Hampshire Medical Society.

 

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

  When it comes to marijuana policy, New Hampshire legislators continue to comb through a slew of what-if scenarios.

The review, and debate, comes on a couple of fronts:

Vermont Governor Signs Recreational Marijuana Law

Jan 22, 2018

Vermont becomes the first state to legislatively enact a law permitting recreational marijuana, which bolsters advocates behind similar legislation in New Hampshire.

Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, said he signed the bill into law with "mixed emotions" during a private signing, the Associated Press reports. It takes effect July 1. It allows adults to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and have two mature and four immature plants.

Vermont is poised to legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana beginning this summer. Police along New Hampshire’s western border, though, say they’re not concerned about the policy change.

The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted Tuesday morning in favor of legislation to legalize recreational marijuana.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

N.H. Banking Examiner Todd Wells says financial institutions may be even less likely to work with marijuana businesses after the federal government signaled a tougher stand on legalization.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions canceled an Obama-era memo last week that federal authorities would not pursue states that legalize pot for recreational or medical purposes.

The move comes as a New Hampshire commission is studying marijuana legalization. Wells referenced the AG's action during a commission meeting today.

Dan Tuohy/NHPR

 

A commission studying marijuana legalization will be seeking data on youth pot use to establish a New Hampshire baseline.

The move comes after the panel heard testimony Monday from Andrew Freedman, the former director of marijuana coordination for Colorado, which has legalized marijuana.

"The problem is that baseline data doesn't exist in a lot of the metrics that we're looking at. He gave us some good ideas," Rep. Patrick Abrami, chairman of the commission, said after the hour-long presentation.

Dan Tuohy/NHPR

 

Lawmakers studying marijuana legalization meet again today and this time they will hear from the former state administrator of pot policy in Colorado.

 

Andrew Freedman is now a consultant on marijuana regulation. He served three years as Colorado's first director of marijuana coordination.

 

State Rep. Patrick Abrami, chairman of the New Hampshire commission studying legalization, says Freedman is scheduled to speak via video conference call.

 

When it comes to marijuana legalization, the conflict between state and federal laws appears to be cause for concern for New Hampshire banks.

Todd Wells, Chief Bank Examiner for the New Hampshire Banking Department, says it's a matter of "reputation risk" for state-chartered banks and credit unions hesitant to establish direct relationships with marijuana-related businesses.

A commission studying marijuana legalization is tasked with identifying “the good, the bad, and the ugly.”

That’s how Rep. Patrick Abrami sums it up. He’s the commission's chairman.

Abrami's outline of guidelines at the first meeting of the commission this week points to the workload ahead. And it hints at the disparate voices in this debate.

Abrami issued the good-bad-ugly bit to emphasize that the commission serve as a fact-finding body and that commissioners “leave our biases at home and objectively address this issue.”

United States Fish and Wildlife Service / Wikimedia Commons

A commission studying the potential impact of legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana for recreational use in New Hampshire is starting its work.

The Legislature created the commission earlier this year, and it will hold its first meeting on Tuesday. Members include lawmakers, representatives from several state agencies and industries, including banking, law enforcement and the medical community.

Brenna Daugherty via Flickr Creative Commons / https://flic.kr/p/bEKokX

A new state law loosening the penalties on marijuana possession officially took effect this weekend. Police departments around the state are worried some residents may not fully understand what the change means.

The backers of marijuana legalization think the study commission set up by legislation that's soon hitting Governor Sununu's desk will be stacked against relaxing marijuana laws.

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Lawmakers in Vermont yesterday stopped short on a bill that would have legalized possession and sale of Marijuana. Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, a bill to decriminalize pot possession is headed to Governor Sununu, who says he’ll sign it.

And in Massachusetts, where recreational use of marijuana was approved by voters in November, lawmakers are pushing to raise taxes on marijuana and tighten regulations, for instance by requiring background checks for workers in the industry.

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The New Hampshire Senate has backed a bill to make up to ¾ an ounce of marijuana a violation rather than a crime.

This is the first time the Senate has supported proposals to loosen the state’s marijuana laws.

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A new poll this week conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center asked Granite Staters to weigh in on a number of topics that have been in the news of late.

More than 500 New Hampshire residents were asked for their opinions on everything from full-day kindergarten to marijuana legalization.

UNH Survey Center Director Andy Smith joined NHPR’s Morning Edition to talk about the results.

N.H. Senate to Take Up Bills on Marijuana, Acupuncture

May 11, 2017
Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The New Hampshire Senate Thursday will weigh in on a range of policy proposals, including a loosening of the state’s laws on marijuana. 

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