A bill to legalize marijuana in New Hampshire was rejected by a House committee Tuesday after legislators voiced concerns about conflict with federal law and potential health consequences for a state in the throes of an opioid crisis.
Proposed before the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, House Bill 656 would have legalized the personal use of cannabis for people 21 and older and created a licensing system to allow businesses to sell the substance, which would be taxed by the state.
Opponents warned that full legalization could add to the opioid crisis by encouraging drug use and put New Hampshire in direct conflict with federal law, which continues to classify marijuana as a prohibited Schedule I drug. Many also argued it would encourage addictive behavior in children.
Supporters countered that the legislation would bring New Hampshire in line with its bordering states – all of which have legalized the drug in recent years – and allow residents to exercise their free will.
“It’s a choice of an individual to decide to do it,” said Rep. Larry Gagne, R-Manchester. “If the education comes from the household in the proper way, then the kids won’t do it.”
Vice Chairman Frank Sapareto, R-Derry – who proposed the bill – said legalization could help wean people off opioids, citing recovering veterans he had spoken to. Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton, meanwhile, said the bill would help keep people out of the criminal justice system and reduce crime. [Read more at Concord Monitor]