NH Marijuana Law Killed in Committee, More To Come This Session | Messages
CONCORD — A bill legalizing marijuana for persons ages 18 and older was defeated by the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on Friday.
The committee also heard bills for recording interactions with officials and increasing garbage fees by 20% to help pay new fish and game conservation officers.
With a 16-to-1 vote to reject the marijuana bill, there will be a minority report from Rep. Chris True, R-Sandown, who was the only one who supported the bill on committee.
There are a number of other bills lawmakers will hear this year related to marijuana possession and use, including those related to home cultivation (HB 629) and fines for possession (HB 526), which are being passed by the same Committee to be heard at 1:30 pm on March 1, probable cause of marijuana smell (HB 1400), legalization (HB 1348) and relative to personal possessions (HB 1306).
House Bill 1468-FN was sponsored by Democrats Stacie Laughton of Nashua and Tony LaBranche of Amherst, and early in the hearing LaBranche’s committee heard that the sponsors requested that the measure be voted inappropriate for legislation.
Rep. True said this is a much better bill than others that have been put before the legislature because it is not about the state increasing its coffers.
“The state shouldn’t sell more drugs than it already does,” he said, referring to the liquor stores.
Instead, he said the intent was to “leave people alone.”
House Bill 1175 deals with recording interactions with officers.
LaBranche, also the sponsor of that bill, said the measure would update the Wiretapping Act to ensure the public can tape officers in the course of their work, but not necessarily at home or off-duty.
This would explicitly allow such records and would include every government worker, including the legislature.
A committee member asked if parents could legally record conversations with counselors at the Department of Children, Youth and Families, and he said yes.
State MP Laura Pantelakos, D-Portsmouth, said she didn’t think a police officer or lawmaker was ever off duty.
LaBranche said for lawmakers, “I believe people already have a right to record us when we’re out in public. When we shop at Market Basket, we are under constant surveillance and they have every right to take us in.”
When asked if this would extend to teachers on bus duty or on a field trip?
“That would be an option. I hadn’t thought of that,” LaBranche said.
How about students taking on teachers?
“It could be changed to exclude schools, but I don’t have a language,” LaBranche said for that exception.
Nashua’s Laurie Ortolano spoke on behalf of Right to Know NH, a non-profit organization, and supported the bill.
She said she wants to focus on public recordings in public buildings.
Ortolano spoke about a lawsuit she is currently pursuing against the city of Nashua in which an employee was reprimanded.
She said the bill would improve the situation in the state.
Rep. Dennis Thompson, R-Stewartstown, read a statement from the main sponsor, Rep. Timothy Egan, D-Sugar Hill, of House Bill 1571, who was unable to attend.
Thompson read Egan’s statement that by increasing littering fines, the state would protect the environment and increase revenue to support Fish and Game and its efforts to get more conservation officers on site. The fines would be increased by 20 percent.
The statement said it would show the public that the state “takes the matter very seriously”.
Improving the sense of community in relation to the environment. This in turn would have economic implications and would encourage more people to enjoy the resources of the state.”
Thompson said he is from Coos County and the biggest problem with littering is on the OHRV trails.
“I don’t know how we’re going to stop all of this, but if we can make the fines … relevant,” he said, that would help.
Richard Head, governmental affairs coordinator for the New Hampshire Department of Justice, did not comment on the bill.
Head said the effective date in the bill of 60 days after passage was problematic.
Head asked for an amendment that the effective date be pushed back to January 1, 2023 due to the time it takes to update the distribution of fines and the judiciary’s need to allocate the money in other ways.
Head said there are currently three littering laws in place and the money currently goes to the State Highway Fund and the General Fund.
This new law, if passed, would allow an additional 20 percent for Fish and Game.
When asked if illegal industrial disposal follows the same path as the littering statute, Head said he wasn’t sure.
According to the tax memorandum, the Department of Security estimates one-time system programming costs of approximately $70,000 to implement the changes in the bill, which are expected to be incurred in fiscal 2022.
Likewise, the Department of Justice anticipates one-time programming costs of approximately $5,000.
Head said the 2020 data showed the state was taking in about $9,000, so the extra 20 percent would be about $1,800 per year.