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Apr 12, 2017 3:18 PM

Hassan tells NH1 News she's got 'real concerns' over decriminalizing marijuana


CONCORD – Democratic U.S. Sen. and former Gov. Maggie Hassan says she thinks decriminalization of marijuana in New Hampshire “raises real concerns.”

Hassan’s comments on Wednesday came one day after the state Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on a bill that would allow possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. The measure, HB 640, was overwhelming approved by a 318-36 vote last month in the state House of Representatives. Bills to decriminalize marijuana have now passed through that chamber eight times over the past ten years, but they’ve repeatedly been shot down in the Senate.

WATCH/READ: Fight over marijuana decriminalization moves to state Senate

Asked by NH1 News where she stood on the issue, Hassan answered that “I am very concerned as a former governor and as somebody who is continuing to fight our heroin and opioid epidemic, that at the height of a substance misuse epidemic, we would be legalizing another substance that we know is very damaging, especially to adolescents.”

She offered that “I would hope that before people vote to pass the legislation, they really look at the most recent information that we have about the impact of marijuana, especially on the brains of adolescents. And that we should think about the enforcement challenges as well with states having a patchwork here. I also would have real concerns about the implementation of any strategy.”

While Hassan emphasized that “I don’t believe any young person’s life should be ruined because of a one-time use or possession of marijuana and I worked to help give the courts more flexibility in dealing with those cases,” she added that “I do think full decriminalization raises real concerns in terms of increasing substance misuse in our state and really could have some long term consequences for our young people.”

While Hassan continues to oppose decriminalization, her Republican successor in the Corner Office disagrees. If the bill makes it to the governor’s office, Gov. Chris Sununu seems inclined to sign it into law. He’s said repeatedly that he supports decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana.

Hassan made her comments as she and fellow Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen took questions from reporters at the Community Development Finance Authority (CDFA) in Concord. The two senators highlighted the positive impact Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) have had in the Granite State and touted their commitment to protecting funding for the program.

Shaheen, a former three-term governor, said that she agreed with Hassan’s comments on marijuana decriminalization.

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