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The Future of Marijuana Policy: The East

Spencer Schredder

New Hampshire (Recreational):

New Hampshire’s legislature passed a bill legalizing marijuana back in January, which made them the first to do so in U.S. history.

The bill was held up by various legislative committees, but in late March, an amendment to HB 492 was adopted by the Ways and Means Committee, which will move the bill to back the to the house floor for another vote.

An October poll from the University of New Hampshire shows that 60 percent of New Hampshire voters support the bill, with only 36 percent opposing.

It is expected that New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan (D) will veto the bipartisan bill.

Last year, Gov. Hassan supported and signed medical marijuana bill that did not include at-home cultivation, which is an aspect of the recreational legalization bill.

New Jersey (Recreational):

Governor Chris Christie (R) has been an outspoken critic of the ‘War on Drugs,’ calling for it to come to an end. Unfortunately, there's different mentality when the legislation crosses his desk.

Two bills - one regarding industrial hemp cultivation, and the other to guarantee patients that they would not be omitted from organ donor lists for medical marijuana use - were pocket vetoed due to lack of action from the Governor’s office.

On March 10, State Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D- Hunterdon and Mercer) introduced a bill (A2842) that would legalize the possession of up to one ounce of Marijuana.

If the bill is to pass, and be signed by Governor Christie, it would send the decision to legalize marijuana to the voters. Though the bill does not address taxation or approval of commercial sales, it is a positive step towards recreational legalization for the Garden State.

Last week, state senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) introduced a different bill that would legalize and regulate marijuana for recreational use.

This bill would allow citizens to purchase up to an ounce of marijuana, and grow 6 plants in their home. State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) voiced his support for legalizing recreational marijuana, but notes that while Christie is in office, there will be no rush to pass the bill.

New York (Medical):

The New York legislature, which has seen a medical marijuana bill introduced every year since 1997, is currently deliberating A-6357, which would legalize possession of up to 2.5 ounces if prescribed by a doctor.

In the mean time, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) announced a plan during his State of the State address to allow 20 medical institutions to prescribe marijuana to patients.

Though this is a positive step, Cuomo will not move forward until the the proposal is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (which might never come). Vermont (Recreational):Vermont’s Governor, Peter Shumlin (D), is one of the few (if not the only) governor’s that has spoken in favor of legalizing marijuana for recreational use. This could go a long way if State Senator David Zuckerman’s (P-Chittenden) recreational legalization bill passes through the legislature.

West Virginia (Medical):

West Virginians with cancer, multiple sclerosis, and HIV/AIDS, might soon have access to medical marijuana if prescribed by a doctor. Mike Manypenny (D-Taylor) introduced HB4264, a bill that calls for the establishment of a state-regulated system for marijuana cultivation, and for dispensment to licensed patients. A new poll from Public Policy Polling found that 56 percent of West Virginians are in favor of legalizing medical marijuana with only 34 percent opposing.  

Honorable Mention: Maine (Recreational):

On November 5, 2013, 67 percent of voters in Portland (Maine’s largest city) voted in favor of legalizing possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. Even though this legalization measure passed, police chief Michael Sauschuck announced that he will not recognize the vote, and that the police force will still follow Maine state law.

There is not currently any introduced legislation or ballot initiatives in play for 2014, but it is projected that a ballot initiative would be looked upon favorably by voters in 2016.
Massachusetts (Recreational):

Massachusetts is another ballot initiative hopeful, but not for 2014. Bay State Repeal already has the paperwork filed for a spot on 2016 ballot.
*This is part five of a five-part series that covers every region of the United States. Click the links below to see parts one through four.*
Part One: The Future of Marijuana Policy: Northwest
Part Two: The Future Of Marijuana Policy - Southwest
Part Three: The Future Of Marijuana Policy - Midwest 
Part Four: The Future Of Marijuana Policy - The South

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