Last Update: March 19, 2015
N.H. House overwhelmingly approves decriminalization bill
New Hampshire will have an opportunity in 2015 to join the rest of New England by decriminalizing marijuana possession. The effort got off to a great 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 reduce the penalty for possessing up to one-half ounce of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a violation.
Possession of up to one ounce is currently punishably by up to a year in jail or a fine of up to $2000. HB 618 would reduce the penalty to a fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and $500 for third or subsequent offenses. This bill, which would significantly reduce the harms caused by marijuana prohibition in New Hampshire, will next move to the Senate for consideration.
The House has passed similar bills five times dating back to 2008, and each has been rejected by the Senate. Fortunately, the situation in the Senate has changed significantly. Last year’s election resulted in several new senators being elected, and some returning senators have expressed support for decriminalization. As a result, MPP and its allies are more hopeful than ever about passing a decriminalization bill in 2015.
Please help us make this sensible reform a reality by asking your senator to support HB 618.
Please also call Gov. Maggie Hassan’s office and ask her to support the bill.
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.
N.H. becomes 19th state to pass medical marijuana law, 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.
A summary of the law is available here.
MPP and other advocates’ and legislative champions’ work on this bill did not stop with Gov. Hassan’s signature. We have been actively involved in the rulemaking and implementation process, and in July, on the one-year “anniversary” of Gov. Hassan signing HB 573, we held a press conference in front of the State House to raise awareness about the problems and delays.
Unfortunately, the attorney general's office has recommended yet another unnecessary delay that will harm patients. Patients have been told they cannot apply for legal protection until the first dispensary is ready to open. Fortunately, the Department of Health and Human Services received 14 applications from prospective dispensary operators in January 2015, and it is expected to approve at least two applicants soon.
MPP's Matt Simon and former Rep. Evalyn Merrick — who sponsored medical marijuana legislation — after the signing of HB 573.
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 22014 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.
Thank you for supporting MPP. To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in New Hampshire, be sure to subscribe to MPP's free legislative alert service.