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Sun Nov 10, 2013, 02:43 PM

(NH) Bill may fail but fight for marijuana decriminalization will continue

DOVER — Marijuana policy advocates, buoyed by New Hampshire becoming the 19th state to legalize medical marijuana, are channeling their efforts to decriminalize possession of small amounts of the drug.

Yet, despite supporters continuing the decriminalization fight in Concord, even sponsors of the legislation acknowledge likely defeat when state lawmakers focus again on the bill in 2014.

Recently, the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety voted 11-7 to recommend the full House of Representatives kill the bill. There will be a floor fight, of course, but the path of House Bill 492 looks to be a short one, given previous opposition, not to mention it’s a non-starter with Gov. Maggie Hassan.

“I’ve never been encouraged that HB 492 would pass; I’ve always seen it as a step toward the goal of future passage,” says Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, R-Manchester, a prime sponsor of the bill. “What really encourages me are the Gallup and UNH polls within the past few weeks. Even should we get this bill out of the House, I doubt it has much chance in the Senate, but the discussion will continue.”

Polls suggest that society has “turned the corner when it comes to legalization,” Vaillancourt writes in a minority report prepared for the House consideration of the bill in January. The recent Gallup poll indicated support for legalization, 58 percent to 39 percent. And the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, in a poll conducted for WMUR-TV, found that 60 percent of respondents supported legislation like HB492.


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