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Marijuana Legalization Backed by N.H. Democrats Chair

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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.

"With marijuana having been legalized in every bordering state, it makes sense for New Hampshire, the Live Free or Die state, to extend this right to our citizens as well," Buckley said in a statement Thursday night.

Rep. Renny Cushing, a Hampton Democrat who has advocated for marijuana legalization, was among those leading the amendment change before the party's platform committee. The committee failed to reach enough votes to move the proposal forward, but the negotiating process continues. 

Democrats plan to release the NHDP platform proposal to the public on June 11.

In an interview Thursday, Cushing went so far as to call it a long shot. Buckley's support, and from two gubernatorial candidates, changes the landscape.

The party's New York counterpart is positioned to embrace legalizing recreational pot.  Cushing calls it an opportunity for Democrats to lead on a progressive issue. He sees it as a social justice issue. This past session, he fought for a bill to legalize marijuana in a way similar to what Vermont is now doing.

New Hampshire also has a commission that is studying marijuana legalization, regulation, and taxation. It plans to issue a report and recommendations by Nov. 1.

Here is a copy of the original request to the NHDP platform committee:

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The marijuana legalization proposed platform plank for the N.H. Democratic Party, as submitted earlier this month.

Cushing has said it's a "generational thing," noting support from Keane and Meyer, two young Democrats. Two other names also jump out.

Paul Twomey, an attorney, is a member of the New Hampshire commission that's in the process of studying marijuana legalization, regulation, and taxation. Mindi Messmer is a congressional candidate in the 1st District.

A similar legalization resolution was brought up in the past, but it was rejected, according to Cushing. He and others did succeed last year in including a plank supporting decriminalization of less than three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana.

Governor Chris Sununu signed that bill into law last fall.

(This article was updated Thursday night and Friday morning with Buckley's statement.)

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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