NH Week in Review for July 23: Work begins on implementing marijuana decriminalization

Jul 23, 2017

Lawmakers’ work to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana culmated with Gov. Christopher Sununu signing HB 640 into law this week. Now the work begins by law enforcement and social service agencies to implement the measure.

HB 640 eliminates criminal penalties for possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana.

As it was making its way through the House and Senate during the 2017 session, Sununu had telegraphed his support, calling it “common sense marijuana reform.” See a Union Leader story here.

The measure goes into effect Sept. 18, which now leaves local law enforcement agencies figuring out how they’ll enforce the law.

According to a Concord Monitor story, the law has some ambiguity, leaving questions like how to deal with someone in possession of differing marijuana products, or how to enforce driving under the influence of the drug.

New Futures, a state nonprofit organization that deals with drug addiction prevention, has opposed decriminalization efforts in the past.

But it worked with lawmakers to, as pointed out in an NHPR story, include in the legislation strong public health and prevention principles, such as a youth risk assessment for a child under 18 who is arrested with marijuana, and also making sure that the fines go to prevention programs.

Decriminalization was not the only marijuana related bill signed by the governor.

Sununu also signed HB 215, which establishes a commission to study the legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana.

The governor signed several more bills this week as he continued to act on measures approved during the recently completed session. They included:
SB 44, which prohibits the state from implementing Common Core standards;
HB 580, which recognizes the legality of online fantasy sports play in the state;
HB 164 to legalize poker in private residences.

Regulation elimination

Gov. Sununu went to a hair salon in Winchester to sign an order that eliminates about 1,600 state regulations that he had deemed as over-regulation.

The salon had battled with state regulators over a barber-pole like painting outside its shop. According to state regulation, you can’t advertise yourself as a barber shop if you are not a barber shop. See an NHPR story here.

“Today's actions are part of my ongoing ‘Cutting Regs and Red Tape’ agenda,” said Sununu. “This is about moving to a culture where our employees, and boards and commissions feel empowered to have a mindset of ‘yes first.’ When it comes to working with state government, far too many small business owners have to fight to get to ‘yes,’ and that’s not right. We need to encourage and support common sense customer service.”

Also in the state

Talk about adding insult to injury. A Boston Globe report, citing whistleblowers, told of unacceptable conditions at the Manchester VA Medical Center. Administrators were removed, interim directors were put in place, and investigations were called for by state and federal officials. Then, a major water pipe failure flooded a number of floors at the facility.

Secretary of State William Gardner attended a meeting of the controversial Election Integrity Commission and encouraged patience, saying national scrutiny is necessary to safeguard voting and instill public confidence in the ballot box. See a Union Leader story here.

Several New Hampshire local officials are taking the pledge to back the Paris Climate Accord goals after President Donald Trump indicated the United States will withdraw from the pact that seeks to address climate change worldwide. Using methane from a landfill for energy, installing solar power on municipal buildings, and hydropower were some of the ideas presented by a group of mayors at a press conference. See a Concord Monitor story here.

More than 100 current and former legislators signed a petition urging the state Site Evaluation Committee to either require the entire 192-mile Northern Pass route be buried or vote the project down. See a Union Leader story here. The committee is holding hearings on the project that proposes to bring hydro-electric power from Canada into the New England electrical grid by way of a transmission line route through the Granite State. The committee also heard from representatives of the Pessamit Innu, a Canadian indigenous community which has long-standing grievances with Hydro Quebec, a partner in the Northern Pass project. See an NHPR story here.

State insurance officials sought to stabilize health care markets with Gov. Sununu’s announcement of a so-called “reinsurance program.” Rates for individual policies under the Affordable Care Act are expected to spike next year in New Hampshire by as much as 40 percent, according to an NHPR story. To try to offset some of those price hikes, the Insurance Department is seeking permission to create a safety net pool of money for insurers when their policyholders need extremely high-priced medical care. See an NHPR story here.

Would you support a later school start time for high schoolers in your town? Should NH allow police to set up texting checkpoints? Do you support a federal bill to ban seismic surveys used to find off-shore fossil fuels? Those are some of the topics we’ve been discussing this week on our Facebook page. You’re invited to join the conversation.


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