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.
Lebanon Police Chief Richard Mello, whose city sits right at the border, says most residents know laws change when they cross state lines -- and marijuana policy is no different.
Still, it’s something his department will be keeping an eye on from a wait-and-see perspective.
“Obviously, in New Hampshire it is a violation level offense after we decriminalized it not too long ago and, you know, I think people in Vermont are aware of that,” Mello says.
Keene Police Chief Steven Russo agreed with Mello that public awareness is important.
“If someone’s carrying a drug that I believe everyone knows is legal in some states now but not in others, it’s probably in their best interest to find out if what they’re carrying is legal in a neighboring state,” Russo says.
New Hampshire loosened penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana last year. State lawmakers have not gone as far as Maine and Massachusetts in legalizing pot for recreational use for adults.
New Hampshire does have a commission studying possible legalization, regulation, and taxation of recreational marijuana. It will issue a report by Nov. 1. Meanwhile, the New Hampshire House of Representatives just passed a bill to legalize possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce of recreational marijuana for adults. It was a preliminary victory for marijuana advocates, some of whom point to neighboring states' forms of legalization as a reason to proceed. A House committee continues to review it.
Vermont’s legislators have passed a bill to legalize recreational use and possession of small amounts of marijuana. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott says he will sign the bill into law.