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State House Live: House votes to legalize, tax marijuana

5:14 p.m.: The New Hampshire House voted this afternoon to legalize marijuana.

The bill, which passed 170-162 after a long and lively debate, will now go to the House Ways and Means Committee. It would need to again pass the full House and then the Senate before it is sent to Gov. Maggie Hassan.

The bill would legalize one ounce of marijuana, authorize its cultivation and sale and impose a tax on its sale.

"We must . . . abandon our reefer madness mentality that has plagued this country for so long," said Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a Manchester Republican and the bill's prime sponsor.

Vaillancourt urged the House to become the first state to pass marijuana legalization through its legislature; voter referendums have passed marijuana legalization laws in Colorado and Washington.

Rep. Linda Harriott-Gathright called marijuana unhealthy and addictive. She said its legalization would lead to companies marketing it to young people.

"Think big tobacco, big alcohol and corporate enterprise," said Harriott-Gathright, a Nashua Democrat.

Rep. Ruth Gage, a Goffstown Democrat, disagreed. She said adolescents are already have easy access to marijuana, and that regulation of marijuana would actually cause them to use less of it.

"Have our current policies been successful at keeping marijuana away from young people?" Gage said. "The answer is clearly no."

Rep. William Butynski, a retired substance abuse expert, urged House members to vote against the bill.

"Doesn't it make sense to protect our children and wait a while to see what actually happens in the states of Colorado and Washington?" said Butynski, a Hinsdale Democrat. "If this is legalized, I hope the people on the other side are correct, that it won't cause a problem. But given my experience, both professionally and personally, i don't think there's a chance of that."

Vaillancourt, who delivered a long speech before the House today, said society's attitude toward marijuana is changing. New Hampshire would benefit from taxing marijuana sales, he said.


3:00 p.m.: The House tabled a bill that would have established a fund to compensate fraud victims of Financial Resources Mortgage, the Lakes Region firm that collapsed in 2009.

The Senate passed the bill this spring, but the House voted to retain it.

The House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee had no recommendation for the bill; its members disagreed on whether the state should take responsibility for failing to shut down FRM and for its decision place it in bankruptcy.

FRM, which was based in Meredith, has been described as the largest Ponzi scheme in New Hampshire history.

More than 250 investors lost about $33 million when the firm collapsed.

A motion to table the bill passed easily, 324-10, and without debate.


12:41 p.m.: The House tabled a bill that would end free skiing on Cannon Mountain for seniors.

The bill went would have offered seniors free admission to state parks, but required them to pay to use ski lifts and trams. Seniors would also still have to pay for admission to the Flume Gorge and the state's other enterprise functions.

Cannon Mountain is the only ski area in New Hampshire that offers free admission to seniors. Residents age 65 and older can receive free lift tickets on weekdays. Rep. Brad Bailey, a Monroe Republican, spoke against the bill based on the change it would make to Cannon Mountain's system.

"Our state's senior citizens see this not as a right, but a privilege afforded them as a thanks in retirement for the many years when they purchased lift tickets for themselves and their sons and daughters," Bailey said.

The House voted 190-150 to table the bill.


12:27 p.m.: The House passed a bill prohibiting discrimination against the unemployed on a close vote, 179-170.

Rep. Chuck Weed, a Keene Democrat, said the bill would prevent employers from turning down unemployed individuals based simply on their lack of a current job, and help people find work.

"We have a number of people who are long-term unemployed," Weed said.

Others said employers should be free to choose who they want to hire, and argued that discrimination against the unemployed is not a problem in New Hampshire.

The bill will now go to the Senate for consideration.


11:29 a.m.: The House has voted against a bill that would have legalized automatic license plate scanners in New Hampshire.

The 214-135 vote indefinitely postponed the bill, so it cannot be brought up again this session.

The bill would have allowed police officers to use automatic license plate scanners that collect data from passing cars and run them through a database of plates connected to crimes.

Rep. Neal Kurk, a Weare Republican, said it would lead to a potentially dangerous amount of data collection by the government. That practice is "not consistent with New Hampshire values," Kurk said.

"Anytime you centralize data, there is an opportunity for those inside the system or outside the system to take that data and misuse it," he said.

The bill would have required police to purge all information from their systems after three minutes. Kurk said he worried that the police would seek to extend the amount of time they can keep the data.

Rep. Geoffrey Hirsch, a Bradford Democrat, said driving is a privilege in New Hampshire, and drivers already must register their license plates.

"Implicit in that registration is an acknowledgement that those plates are there for public scrutiny, for identification and for recognition," Hirsch said. "That's part of the process. So how can there be an expectation of privacy about our license plates?"

Be sure to check back with the Monitor for more updates as the House session continues.


The House has a packed agenda as it convenes today. The bills awaiting action would address issues including GMO labeling, decriminalizing marijuana, drug testing for medical workers and establishing Keno as a lottery game.

How far lawmakers will get on the list remains to be seen. We’ll keep you updated as the day unfolds.

Legacy Comments4

Prohibition is actually an authoritarian war on our economy and Constitution. It's all about market and cost/benefit analysis. Whether any particular drug is good, bad, or otherwise is irrelevant. As long as there is demand for any mind altering substance there WILL be supply! The only affect prohibiting it has is to drive the price up while increasing the costs and profits - and where there is illegal profit to be made, corrupt politicians, criminals and terrorists thrive. The cost of criminalizing citizens who are using substances similar but no more harmful than those that are perfectly legal—like alcohol and tobacco, is not only hypocritical and futile, but also simply not worth the incredible suffering and damage it causes. Prohibition (AKA The Corporate Social Welfare Program) has finally run its course: our prisons are full, our economy is in ruins, the lives and livelihoods of tens of millions of Americans have been destroyed or severely disrupted. What was once a shining beacon of liberty and prosperity has become a toxic, repressive, smoldering heap of hypocrisy and a gross affront to fundamental human decency. Former and present Prohibitionists shall not be allowed to remain untainted and untouched by the unconscionable acts that they have viciously committed on their fellow citizens. They have provided us with neither safe communities nor safe streets. We will provide them with neither a safe haven to enjoy their ill-gotten gains nor the liberty to repeat such a similar atrocity.

AGREED! Sent the following to all State Reps: Dear representatives of the people of New Hampshire-- Two simple questions: 1) Do you really represent the people of New Hampshire? If so, you must know that a recent poll by Public Policy Polling found 53% of New Hampshire voters support changing state law to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol, only 37% were opposed. A recent WMUR poll found even higher support. 2) Are you even remotely intellectually honest? If so, AND you oppose HB 492, could you please demonstrate this by providing your "Top Ten Reasons” to NOT legalize Marijuana Now? Top Ten Reasons to Legalize Marijuana Now 10. Hemp benefits are denied. Hemp can be made into paper, paneling, plastics, clothing and thousands of other useful products. The highly nutritious seeds can be used to make flour, cooking oil and cattle feed. This environmentally friendly plant grows without herbicides, nourishes the soil, matures quickly and provides high yields. It's the number-one biomass producer in the world - ten tons per acre in four months. It could be an excellent fuel-producing crop. Hemp, "nature's perfect plant," could bring a bonanza to hurting American farmers while greatly reducing America's dependence on fossil fuels, which could significantly mitigate climate change. 9. Prohibition diverts billions from the needy. More than 50 government agencies feed at the drug war trough. Food stamps and other social programs are being slashed while billions are spent trying to stop adults from using marijuana. 8. Prohibition is clearly counterproductive. Guaranteeing massive profits to anyone on earth who can produce and deliver marijuana to our streets cannot do anything but assure that even more will be produced and delivered. 7. Criminalizing marijuana lacks moral justification. A real crime implies a victim and a perpetrator. Can you imagine being jailed for robbing yourself? As insane as this sounds, our government has done the equivalent by making adult use of marijuana a crime. Only a depraved, corrupt government could invent a crime you commit against yourself. 6. Marijuana users are not debased human beings. Cultures throughout history - and pre-history! - have altered their minds with a variety of drugs. Billions around the world derive positive benefits from mind-altering drugs (especially from alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and marijuana). Demonizing and criminalizing some drugs, while approving others without rational criteria, is clearly arbitrary and deceitful. Why are marijuana users criminals while alcohol and tobacco users are not? Why are marijuana dealers demonized, but alcohol and tobacco dealers are not? 5. Marijuana is effective medicine. There's overwhelming evidence that marijuana can safely relieve pain, nausea and vomiting caused by various illnesses. In fact, marijuana is patently safer than many commonly prescribed drugs. 4. Promising medical research is thwarted. The discovery of naturally occurring marijuana-like substances in the human body that activate so-called cannabinoid receptors has opened up vast possibilities for new medicines derived from the 66 or so cannabinoids identified in marijuana. These receptors are not just in the brain, but also found in many other parts of the body including the immune, endocrine and reproductive systems. 3. Billions in potential taxes go to drug cartels. Our cash-strapped states are being cheated out of billions that could be obtained by taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol. 2. Thousands of prohibition murders occur each year. Mexico is the world's largest exporter of marijuana (most goes to the United States). There were at least 24,000 prohibition-related murders in Mexico since 2006. Thousands more died here, also a direct result of marijuana prohibition. 1. Live free or die? Really? Prohibition denies our most basic human right. Prohibition takes away our right of sovereignty over our own bodies and gives this power to government. Does any other human right make sense if we don't have sovereignty over our own bodies? There's a word for people who don't have sovereignty over their own bodies: slaves. The Glaring Truth About the Drug War The drug war is a blatantly dishonest, extremely expensive, highly destructive, grossly unjust, abject failure of our government. Despite 40 years and $1 trillion-plus of taxpayer money spent trying to stop - not robbery, not rape, not murder, not even shoplifting - but mostly trying to stop adults from using marijuana; despite draconian punishments; despite jailing millions of nonviolent Americans; despite thousands of prohibition-related murders each year, illegal drugs are cheaper, purer and more readily available than ever. The drug war is a vast government scam guaranteed to be perpetually futile. Prohibition only pretends to fight drugs. In fact, it guarantees massive profits to anyone on the planet who can produce and deliver prohibited drugs to our streets. Jailing drug dealers just creates lucrative job openings for more efficient, more ruthless, eager replacements. Only a small percentage of illegal drugs are intercepted, and these are easily and cheaply replaced. Prohibition creates, sustains and handsomely rewards the illegal drug industry while pretending to fight that very same industry. Like the classic mafia protection racket, our government creates a perpetual problem and then charges us exorbitantly to "protect" us from it. This abomination continues unabated because our government is addicted to the taxpayer billions it wastes year after year after year pretending to fight an enemy created and sustained by prohibition itself. Marijuana is the linchpin of the drug war. Legalizing marijuana will sound the death knell for this devastating crime against humanity.

License Plate information, and all other DMV personally identifiable data is not subject to public scrutiny. One cannot simply go to DMV and request a license plate number, nor can one simply ask a police officer to run that information. There was a law passed on this very information in the 90's after a police dispatcher was found 'selling' dmv information, among other things. Rep. Hirsch should double check his information. This information is restricted, and only very limited groups of people are able to get at this.

License Plate information, and all other DMV personally identifiable data is not subject to public scrutiny. One cannot simply go to DMV and request a license plate number, nor can one simply ask a police officer to run that information. There was a law passed on this very information in the 90's after a police dispatcher was found 'selling' dmv information, among other things. Rep. Hirsch should double check his information. This information is restricted, and only very limited groups of people are able to get at this.

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