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Marijuana Legalization Bill Put On Hold in N.H. Senate


Marijuana legalization efforts at the State House were put on hold Thursday, as the Senate referred the bill back to committee.

“Although we may disagree on whether the prohibition of marijuana has been a success, or whether we should remain an island within New England, we all agree that this decision cannot be made lightly and without further consideration," Sen. Martha Hennessey, D-Hanover, said in motioning the bill back to the Judiciary Committee.

The Senate did not debate the legislation, which previouslypassed the New Hampshire House of Representatives.


The action means the legislation will not proceed this year, and will be pushed back to 2020.


New Futures, an advocacy organization opposed to legalizing cannabis, issued a statement that included Mark Chase, president of the N.H. Association of Chiefs of Police, raising safety concerns with proposed lifting of the prohibition on marijuana. Dr. William Goodman, Chief Medical Officer at Catholic Medical Center, cited public health concerns.


“HB 481 would have allowed a major industry to utilize aggressive marketing tactics for the commercial sale of marijuana, just as the tobacco, vaping, and marijuana industries have done in other states," Goodman said in the statement.

New Hampshire is the only state in New England that has not legalized cannabis for adults in some way. The Granite State does have a medical marijuana program, which now has more than 7,000 enrollees.

Matt Simon is New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. He said that, despite the result, advocates made great strides in 2018.

"Our opponents may have succeeded in delaying the inevitable by flying in prohibitionists from other states, but they have completely lost this battle in the court of public opinion," Simon said. "It is only a matter of time before the legislature votes to end cannabis prohibition in the 'Live Free or Die' state." 

Ten states have legalized recreational marijuana. Bids to legalize weed in New York and New Jersey were dereailed earlier this year. Marijuana remains illegal federally.
(Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.)

Dan is a long-time New Hampshire journalist who has written for outlets including Foster's Daily Democrat, The Citizen of Laconia, The Boston Globe, and The Eagle-Tribune. He comes to NHPR from the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he reported on state, local, and national politics.

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