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New Hampshire House Becomes First Legislative Body To Pass Bill Legalizing Pot

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"New Hampshire House Becomes First Legislative Body To Pass Bill Legalizing Pot"

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John Lavoiel at a protest on decriminalizing marijuana in front of the New Hampshire statehouse in 2010.

John Lavoiel at a protest on decriminalizing marijuana in front of the New Hampshire statehouse in 2010.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Jim Cole

The New Hampshire House became the first legislative body Wednesday to pass a bill legalizing recreational marijuana. The bill is modeled on the laws passed by ballot initiative in Washington and Colorado, and would legalize up to an ounce of possession, tax and regulate distribution, and allow individuals to grow up to six plants.

The bill passed Wednesday only after it failed just an hour earlier. On a first vote, lawmakers voted to kill the bill by a margin of two. They then moved to reconsider the bill and voted 170-162 on favor.

While the vote was hailed by the Marijuana Policy Project as the first in a legislative chamber to support treating marijuana like alcohol, the bill has little chance of becoming law. The Senate has rejected even less aggressive decriminalization measures in the past, and Gov. Maggie Hassan vowed to veto the bill. In July, Hassan signed a medical marijuana bill.

Advocates are nonetheless hopeful that polling might change some lawmakers’ minds. A recent University of New Hampshire poll found that 60 percent of state residents support legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

Richard Van Wickler, Superintendent of Corrections in New Hampshire’s Cheshire County, said the house vote “has proven the legalization of marijuana is a politically viable, mainstream issue with the potential to improve public safety and benefit the community in numerous ways.” “This state now has an opportunity to modernize its views and recalibrate its moral compass in a way that provides an example of leadership the rest of the country will soon follow,” he added, in a statement issued by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition after the vote.

A number of states are now eyeing bills to reform their marijuana laws. Medical marijuana bills are moving into southern states, including South Carolina and Florida. In Florida, support for medical marijuana is viewed as a potentially decisive issue in the governor’s race. A decriminalization measure is poised to pass in Washington, D.C. And states eyeing legalization ballot initiatives include Massachusetts, California, Alaska, Arizona, and even Wyoming. Advocates are aiming for legislative legalization in several other states, including Rhode Island and Hawaii.

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