N.H. Senate narrowly fails to pass decriminalization bill
Last update: June 17, 2015
New Hampshire had a great opportunity in 2015 to join the rest of New England by decriminalizing marijuana possession. The effort got off to a strong start when HB 618, sponsored by Rep. Adam Schroadter (R-Newmarket) and seven co-sponsors, passed the House by a huge 297-67 margin March 11. This sensible bill would have reduced the penalty for possessing up to one-half ounce of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a violation.
Unfortunately, although the Senate held a heated debate over the bill on the last day of its session June 4, senators were not able to agree on a compromise and the bill was “tabled.” It can be revived again, but not until the Senate reconvenes in January.
As a result of this temporary setback, possession of up to one ounce remains punishable by up to a year in jail or a fine of up to $2000.
If you live in New Hampshire, please check to see how your state senator voted and follow up with an email.
For a detailed analysis of how a criminal record can have far reaching effects for New Hampshire residents, check our report, Marked for Life: Collateral Sanctions Associated with Marijuana Offenses in New Hampshire.
Three applicants approved to operate N.H. dispensaries, but patients are still fighting for legal protections and access
On July 23, 2013, Gov. Maggie Hassan signed a bill allowing seriously ill New Hampshire residents to use marijuana for medical purposes. Unfortunately, before doing so, she insisted on several changes. As a result, the law is not yet effective for patients. MPP’s Matt Simon described the situation — and the frustrations felt by patients — in an opinion editorial published in September 2014.
On June 9, 2015, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that three applicants had received approval to operate four dispensaries (known as alternative treatment centers or ATCs) in the state. There will be one dispensary in each of four geographic areas. You can read more about the program at the department’s website.
Unfortunately, the attorney general’s office recommended an unnecessary delay that is harming patients. Although patients are still being arrested in the state, the AG’s office has said patients should not be able to apply for ID cards (which would protect them from arrest) until the first dispensary is ready to open. The health department has followed this recommendation, leaving patients at risk.
A summary of the law is available here.
N.H. House makes history, votes to legalize and regulate marijuana
On January 15, 2014, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 170-162 to approve a bill that would legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for use by adults in the “Live Free or Die” state. This was the first time any state legislative chamber has approved such a bill.
An October 2, 2014 WMUR Granite State Poll found that 60% of New Hampshire adults supported the bill — HB 492. Unfortunately, Gov. Maggie Hassan said she would veto the bill if it reached her desk. “I just think it’s the wrong message to send to young people,” she explained.
After passing the House in January 2014, HB 492 — sponsored by Rep. Steve Vaillancourt (R-Manchester) — was considered by the House Ways and Means Committee, which voted against recommending it for passage. In a March 26 vote, the House upheld the committee’s negative recommendation, effectively killing HB 492 for the year. Although HB 492 is dead, the idea of legalizing and regulating marijuana continues to gain support each year in the New Hampshire Legislature.
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