New Hampshire lawmakers say legalization of marijuana in Maine and Massachusetts should increase the chance of passing similar laws in the Granite State, while police officials say they’ll continue to arrest people found in possession of pot until the law changes.
The bottom line is we have to enforce the law, said Portsmouth Police Chief David Mara.
New Hampshire is now sandwiched between two states that have legalized marijuana, separated by just 18 miles of coastline and about 14 miles of highway on Interstate 95. Seacoast legislators said this week they believe that will increase pressure on the Legislature to at least decriminalize marijuana.
Its really kind of a game changer, said Democratic Hampton state Rep. Renny Cushing. Theres going to be a product thats legally purchased and available to people on our borders. With that same product, someone goes to New Hampshire, they could have someone put in jail for a year.
Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project has lobbied for marijuana legalization in Concord for 10 years. Simon said the change in states bordering New Hampshire should lead to decriminalization in the next legislative session. He also said legalization should be around the corner for New Hampshire.
The state will finally start talking about legalization, Simon said.
Because non-medical marijuana is still illegal in New Hampshire, police chiefs said those in possession of pot need to remember they will be arrested if caught with the drug.
Hampton Police Chief Richard Sawyer said there could be an increase in marijuana arrests in New Hampshire as a result of the new laws. When Massachusetts lawmakers decriminalized marijuana in 2008, he said officers began finding people who were caught with the drug in New Hampshire not realizing it was still illegal to possess north of the Bay State border.
Even though more people could be driving through New Hampshire with marijuana in their car, Sawyer said he does not intend to increase efforts to arrest them. He said he has bigger priorities, like the current opioid crisis. His town alone saw five overdoses in October, which brought the total to nine for the year.
In the world we live in today, there are much more serious issues we are dealing with, Sawyer said. I have no intentions of increasing our efforts in that area.
Cushing believes marijuana legalization could be coming in the next couple years. He said legalization of marijuana in California and Nevada at the polls Nov. 8 indicates prohibition against the drug is coming to an end.
Some believe it may take time for New Hampshire to join Maine and Massachusetts, however. Outgoing state Rep. David Borden said states seem to go through a three-step process from legalizing medical marijuana to decriminalization and then legalization of recreational marijuana. Decriminalization appears to be near, he said, but there may still be lawmakers hesitant to support full legalization given how new the concept is.
I think theres a shorter leap between medical marijuana and decriminalization than there is between decriminalization and legalizing it, Borden said. I think thats a very big step for a state like New Hampshire.
Republican Gov.-elect Chris Sununu said in an interview with Seacoast Media Group this week that he currently supports decriminalization but not legalization, saying he prefers to observe how other states deal with legalization.
(To) simply jump all the way to full legalization is not a step that we should be looking at right now, Sununu said.
Some believe there is enough incentive in collecting tax revenue to convince lawmakers to pass legalization soon, though. If New Hampshire residents want to use marijuana in Maine and Massachusetts, some said New Hampshire lawmakers will be conscious of the fact that marijuana users could be paying taxes on those purchases in the Granite State.
Im sure that will be one of the arguments. We may as well collect the tax revenue, said state Rep. Tracy Emerick, R-Hampton, who has said he would support legalization and decriminalization.
Until those changes come to New Hampshire, police chiefs like Seabrook’s Michael Gallagher encourage those in possession of marijuana to pay close attention state borders. In his town, some roads weave in and out of New Hampshire on the border with Salisbury, Massachusetts, including Route 286, the main route between Seabrooks beach district and its portion of Route 1.
Some people cross the border without knowing theyre in New Hampshire, Gallagher said. People have to realize where the border is.
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Full Article: Will New Hampshire Follow In Marijuana Legalization?
Author: Max Sullivan
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