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Vermont and New Hampshire Get Serious About Marijuana Reform

Crucial legislative votes could take place this week, with the most important, a Vermont House Judiciary Committee vote on full legalization. The bill was passed in a full Vermont Senate vote on February 25. If it gets to a full floor vote in the House Governor Pete Shumlin has promised to sign it into law.

The bill, S241, would legalize possession of up to one ounce by adults 21 and older, and license cultivation and retail locations.

Shumlin has been cheer-leading the move to a regulated market.

«Vermont has a clear choice. As states nationwide and those close to home continue working to enact smarter policies around marijuana, we can be the first state to do it right. We can lift the veil of prohibition that has prevented us from taking rational steps to address all the issues that come with marijuana use that exist right now, given that one in eight Vermonters uses the substance on a monthly basis,» said Shumlin in a recent OPED, «Or we can choose to delay making the right policy choice, continuing to bury our heads in the sand and hope that a policy that has failed for decades will all of the sudden start working.

The Vermont House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote by the end of the week.

In New Hampshire the goal right now is decriminalization.

Oddly, advocates point out that the Granite State is the only one left in New England with instant criminal penalties for simple possession. Small amounts are considered a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of 3 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

A decade long fight has been underway in New Hampshire to move to civil fines instead. But the bill is back where it has failed six times before; the New Hampshire Senate. Today the Senate Judiciary committee heard testimony on the measure.

The Concord Monitor reported that N.H. Rep. Peter Cushing, a Democrat from Hampton, said at the hearing today, “If we’re serious about substance abuse, we better move our eyes to the opioid crisis and not squander precious resources arresting people for a small amount of marijuana.”

It remains unclear if New Hampshire will finally succeed with decrim, especially with rather not-supportive Governor Maggie Hassan, but there is certainly a strong chance.