Pot plan - Belmont rep wants to make having small amounts of marijuana legal

CONCORD — When the New Hampshire Legislature meets in January, the long-running campaign to legalize the possession and cultivation of marijuana for any use will be championed by Rep. Michael Sylvia (R-Belmont).

Sylvia, who moved to New Hampshire with the Free State Project in 2010 and is serving his second term in the House of Representatives, said "I'd rather drink a beer than smoke a joint," then added, "As a supporter of liberty, I believe in supporting everybody's liberty."

Sylvia's legislation, House Bill 1610, permit those 21 or older to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and cultivate no more than six marijuana plants — three or fewer if mature — on property the grower owns, leases or controls. The bill would permit the transfer of one ounce of marijuana from one adult to another so long as no money changes hands.

Sylvia said that much of the opposition to legislation that would legalize or decriminalize the possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana for personal use arises from a reluctance to adopt a state statute that violates the federal law. He explained that to overcome this objection, he modeled his bill on the law adopted in the District of Columbia in February after nearly two-thirds of voters approved a ballot initiative in November 2014.

"Congress has the authority to prevent it," Sylvia said, "but didn't."

About a dozen bills seeking to decriminalize or legalize marijuana have come before the New Hampshire Legislature in the past decade. While these efforts have found increasing support and even majorities in the House, they have failed, most often by voice vote, in the Senate. Bills to decriminalize possession of a quarter-ounce or less of marijuana carried the House in 2009, 2012 and 2013, but failed in the Senate. In 2014, a bill to license the cultivation, regulate the distribution and tax the sale of marijuana failed in the House by a 192 to 140 vote. This year, legislation establishing a commission to study legitimizing the sale of marijuana passed the House by a voice vote and died by a voice vote in the Senate.

"I'm confident my bill will pass the House," Sylvia said, "and that the Senate will do its things. But, it's another shot across the bow."

He claimed that "the war on drugs is a failure" and "pushing drugs onto the black market makes the situation much worse." He said that his bill would encourage individual freedom while diminishing the traffic in illicit drugs and the crime associated with it.

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Despondent man arrested after swinging pole at local woman and police

LACONIA – A local man is being held on $5,000 cash bail after allegedly swinging a pole at a local woman and a police sergeant who was trying to arrest him.

Police said Eric Sleeper, whose last known address was 188 Union Ave., went to a nearby residence in violation of a recently issued bail order.

The sergeant was the first to respond and allegedly found Sleeper with a 4-foot pole in his hand. When the sergeant told him to drop the pole, Sleeper allegedly told the officer to kill him. After repeating his instructions to drop the pole, Sleeper eventually did, but charged at the sergeant. Sleeper was taken into custody by the sergeant and a second officer, but continued to ask them both to kill him.

Prior to this, police learned that Sleeper had allegedly pushed the woman down with his arm and held her there until she told ambulance crews she had trouble breathing. She told police Sleeper was upset because she told him to stop drinking in her presence. She said her friends had to pull Sleeper off of her.

Sleeper is charged with one count of resisting arrest – a Class A misdemeanor, one count of breach of bail – a Class A misdemeanor, one count of criminal threatening – a Class B felony, and one count of second-degree assault – a Class B felony. Class A misdemeanors carry the possibility of jail time should Sleeper be convicted.

Judge Jim Carroll ruled that if Sleeper could be admitted to a secure mental health or or detoxification center, his bail would be reduced to personal recognizance.

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Car stolen from Laconia, crashed into Gilford ATM

Police in Laconia and Gilford are working together to determine who stole a red Dodge Neon from the area near St. Joseph's Church at 8 a.m. Sunday morning.

The car thief apparently drove the car to Gilford Village at One Country Club Road where the male driver allegedly deliberately backed into the Bank of New Hampshire ATM.

After the crash, the man ditched the car and fled on foot.

Gilford Police responded with a State Police K-9 that was able to track the person back to Church Street in Laconia.

Laconia Lt. Rich Simmons said the car was stolen while the owner was attending Mass, and the car was crashed into the ATM before she knew it had been taken.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the Gilford Police at 527-4737, the Laconia Police at 524-5252 or the Greater Laconia Crime Line at 524-1717.

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