For the fourth time in six years, New Hampshire House lawmakers voted this week to approve two marijuana bills, one that would legalize medical pot and another that would decriminalize the substance.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that a measure to "sanction five marijuana dispensaries and allow patients or caregivers to grow up to three plants for medical use" sailed through the House by a vote of 286-64. While similar legislation has made it past this hurdle in prior years, other bills have succumbed to opposition from the state Senate or to vetoes from former Gov. John Lynch (D).
The overwhelming margin of support from the House this time around, however, constitutes a veto-proof majority in the House. The state Senate's top lawmaker has expressed optimism that the effort will make it through that body -- though perhaps not until changes are made to the legislation -- and Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) has announced support for medical marijuana in the state, as long as it is thoroughly regulated.
New Hampshire is the only New England state that hasn't legalized medical marijuana.
On Thursday, the state House took another step in favor of loosening marijuana restrictions by passing a measure to decriminalize pot by a 214-115 margin. The bill would establish a $200 maximum fine for adults in possession of up to a quarter ounce of marijuana. Under the legislation, minors caught with marijuana would be forced to attend drug rehabilitation classes or face a $1,000 fine.
Similar efforts have been approved by the state House four times over the past years, only to be rejected by other parties. It appears that the bill may meet a similar fate this time around, as both leaders of the state Senate and Hassan have said they oppose decriminalizing marijuana.
Earlier this month, the state House also voted on a bill to legalize marijuana altogether. It rejected that measure by a vote of 239-122.