Marijuana legalization showdown in N.H. State House Tuesday

  • FILE - This Sept. 11, 2018, file photo shows blankets of frost known as trichomes on a budding marijuana flower at an artisanal cannabis farm SLOgrown Genetics, the coastal mountain range of San Luis Obispo, Calif. Liberal California became the largest legal U.S. marketplace, while conservative Utah and Oklahoma embraced medical marijuana. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel,File) Richard Vogel

Monitor staff
Published: 2/5/2019 1:03:15 PM

Supporters of marijuana legalization are expected to pour into the State House Tuesday afternoon, as a bill by Rep. Renny Cushing gets its first public hearing.

Members of the public will have a chance to weigh in on the legislation, House Bill 481, at 1 p.m. in Representatives Hall. New Hampshire is surrounded by states that have legalized cannabis; Cushing’s bill would do the same and apply a tax and regulation scheme on legal sales.

Ahead of Tuesday’s hearing, advocates on both sides are positioning for a battle. Supporters have centered arguments around individual liberty, increased economic and tax benefits, and criminal justice reform.

Jeanne Hruska, policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union New Hampshire, said that the organization supports legalization as a way to eliminate unfair penalties by law enforcement.

“We think the war on marijuana has not only failed as policy, but it has had detrimental impacts on communities of color and minority communities where the enforcement of marijuana has been most targeted,” Hruska said. 

But opponents have said the state should not legalize during the opioid crisis, which they argue could be exacerbated by marijuana. And though the bill prohibits the use of marijuana by drivers or passengers in moving vehicles, law enforcement have raised concerns around enforcement.

Gov. Chris Sununu has stood staunchly against the bill for months, telling reporters Tuesday that “statistics speak for themselves when it comes to the dangers of marijuana.”

“Most people understand that now’s just not the time,” Sununu said.

Tuesday’s hearing is expected to last several hours. At noon, a coalition of supporters – including the ACLU and Americans for Prosperity – will appear at a press conference in the Legislative Office Building. 

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