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Panel recommends N.H. Senate kill marijuana-decriminalization bill that passed House

A bill that would decriminalize possession of a small amount of marijuana appears headed for defeat in the Senate, despite passing the House last month with a near-veto-proof majority.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted, 5-0, yesterday to recommend the full Senate kill the bill.

“I personally don’t agree with the policy,” said Sen. Donna Soucy, a Manchester Democrat. “But even if I did, the bill is so poorly crafted that it would take quite a bit of work to try to make something out of it.”

The bill, introduced by Republican Rep. Kyle Tasker of Nottingham, would reduce possession of a quarter-ounce or less of marijuana to a violation-level offense carrying a $200 fine.

The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee recommended killing the bill. But the full House rejected that recommendation, and instead passed it March 21 on a 214-115 vote.

It was the fourth time in five years that the House had voted to decriminalize marijuana. The three previous bills were all killed by the Senate, and Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan has said she doesn’t support decriminalizing marijuana.

Sen. Sharon Carson, a Londonderry Republican and the judiciary committee’s chairwoman, called the bill passed by the House this year “fatally flawed.” But she acknowledged polls show growing public support for looser restrictions on marijuana.

“I’m sure this is not the end of it,” said Sen. Bette Lasky, a Nashua Democrat.

The Democratic-led House earlier killed a bill that would have legalized marijuana in New Hampshire, but did pass a medical marijuana bill that is now awaiting action by the Republican-led Senate.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or
bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

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