Democrats make marijuana legalization part of party platform

STRATHAM, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire Democrats on Saturday added marijuana legalization to their party platform, bolstering advocates’ hopes of catching the state up with the regulations of neighboring states.

“We believe that marijuana should be legalized, taxed and regulated,” said the platform adopted at the New Hampshire Democratic Party convention held at the Stratham Cooperative Middle School.

State delegates voted by acclamation to accept the platform. They also approved a resolution advocating the removal of marijuana from the federal government’s list of top class drugs, along with heroin and cocaine.

Democrats in recent months have debated the potential legalization and regulation of cannabis, with supporters saying New Hampshire is falling behind neighboring states.

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Vermont in January legalized the possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana. Maine has voted to legalize recreational marijuana, despite opposition from Republican Gov. Paul LePage. Marijuana shops are slated to open in Massachusetts this year.

Chris Pappas, a Democratic executive councilor running in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District primary, said he supports state-level legalization.

“It’s clearly a matter of when and not if marijuana gets legalized in New Hampshire,” he said. “I think that at the point in time when it is legalized we need to be ready to make sure that public safety is protected.”

Pappas predicted voters would be considering pot policy this fall, but he said he doubted it would be their top issue. Health care and the economy likely will take precedence, he said.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates Molly Kelly and Steve Marchand both said they back marijuana legalization, with Marchand noting he supported it in his unsuccessful 2016 run for governor, before his party as a whole.

Throughout the convention, Democratic lawmakers and candidates for office hammered President Donald Trump over his administration’s policy of forcible family separation at the border.

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan noted that, despite an executive order that effectively ends the practice, thousands of children may endure lasting damage.

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“We have heard the cries of screaming kids who have no idea where their parents are being taken or if they’ll ever even see them again,” she said in a speech to the convention floor.

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster sent a stand-in speaker because she was scheduled to visit a federal immigrant detention facility Saturday.

Student activists attending the convention held signs advocating gun safety, and candidates repeatedly called for a world without active-shooter drills for children. The platform adopted supports gun-free zones in schools and universal background checks on firearms sales. It also calls for a ban on carrying guns in the New Hampshire Statehouse.

In other items, the platform demands a repeal of capital punishment and expresses support for student and minority voting rights, a recently contentious issue in state politics with major voter ID legislation awaiting the signature of Governor Chris Sununu, a Republican.

The Republican state convention was May 12.