FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 6, 2023
Contact: Violet Cavendish
HB 639, a bill to legalize marijuana in New Hampshire, has bipartisan sponsors in House and Senate
Concord, N.H. — Marijuana legalization is one step closer to reality in New Hampshire after the state House of Representatives voted 272-109 to pass HB 639. While legalization efforts have fallen short in recent years, this year’s effort has positive momentum heading into the state Senate with HB 639 having bipartisan sponsors in both the House and Senate.
HB 639, which would legalize marijuana for adults over the age of 21, is co-sponsored by House Republican and Democrat leaders, Representative Jason Osborne (R) and Representative Matt Wilhelm (D), and is supported by a broad coalition of representatives from the marijuana industry and civil rights and policy groups.
Polling has shown that the vast majority, more than 70%, of New Hampshire residents support the legalization of marijuana for adults. In recent years, legalization bills have passed in the state House of Representatives, but have fallen short in the state Senate.
“I am pleased to see New Hampshire take a step toward relieving gangsters and thugs from control of this market, keeping dangerous untested products away from consumers, and protecting children from harmful age-inappropriate products,” said Representative Jason Osborne.
“With the decisive passage of HB 639, the New Hampshire House has sent a strong message that this is the year to legalize adult-use cannabis in the Granite State,” said Representative Matt Wilhelm. “Every year we fail to legalize marijuana, the state wastes valuable resources and ruins the lives of many young and poor Granite Staters by enforcing failed prohibition. New Hampshire remains the only state in New England that has failed to legalize cannabis, while our neighbors benefit from increased revenue and their cannabis users benefit from safer testing and regulation of the product. Legalization of adult possession of small amounts of cannabis is the right thing to do for New Hampshire and we must get it done in 2023.”
HB 639 now passes to the state Senate, where it also will be supported by a bipartisan group. State Senator Keith Murphy (R), State Senator Becky Whitley (D), and State Senator Donovan Fenton (D) are supporting this bill through the Senate, and plan to work with members of their parties to get adult-use marijuana legalization to the governor’s desk for the first time.
“Prohibition has proven over and over to be a failed public policy,” said State Senator Keith Murphy. “It is especially ineffective when all of our surrounding states have already legalized marijuana possession and use. Investigating and prosecuting cannabis possession is a terrible waste of tax dollars. For these reasons, I am encouraging my Senate colleagues to support the bill.”
“There’s momentum behind marijuana legalization this year, Granite Staters want this to happen and it’s time that lawmakers come together and listen to our constituents,” said State Senator Becky Whitley. “HB 639 would stop the cycle of harm caused by enforcing marijuana prohibition from the day that it’s signed. With such far-reaching, positive impact at stake, there’s no time to wait.”
The broader coalition of bill HB 639 includes: Americans for Prosperity - New Hampshire, The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, New Hampshire Cannabis Association, Prime ATC, Hon. Timothy Egan, Hon. Joe Hannon, Attorney Paul Twomey, and the Marijuana Policy Project.
Coalition members said:
Ross Connolly, AFP-NH Deputy State Director, said, “We applaud the New Hampshire House for once again passing HB 639 by an overwhelming, bipartisan majority. Public polling consistently shows 70%+ of Granite Staters support legalizing cannabis for adults. Representatives made it clear that they stand with their constituents by finding a bipartisan compromise that protects consumer safety, restricts access to minors, and keeps the regulatory and tax structure low to ensure retail cannabis in the Granite State is competitive with our neighbors. We encourage the Senate and Governor to join the House in supporting this thoughtful and uniquely New Hampshire approach to legalizing cannabis for adults.”
Frank Knaack, Policy Director for the ACLU of New Hampshire, said, “Sold to the public in the name of public safety, New Hampshire’s marijuana laws needlessly ensnare over a thousand people -- disproportionately Black people -- in its criminal justice system every year. New Hampshire's war on marijuana harms community safety, wastes taxpayer dollars, is enforced with a staggering racial bias, and ruins lives — it's time for it to end.”
Hon. Timothy Egan, NHCANN Board of Advisors Chair, said "HB 639 is a great example of intelligent, bipartisan legislation by two important House Committees. It answers our residents' call for regulation, in a fiscally prudent manner, while being socially respectful to our communities, public safety officials and patients. We look forward to engaging the Senate and Governor, to gain their insights on this "New Hampshire way" of legalizing cannabis for adults.”
Karen O’Keefe, Marijuana Policy Project director of state policies, said, “Year after year, legalization bills have died in the Senate after passing the House, leaving New Hampshire as the only state in New England that hasn’t legalized and regulated cannabis for adults. HB 639 is informed by the lessons of the 21 states that have already legalized cannabis and reflects the priorities and values of New Hampshire. It's past time for the Granite State to live up to its ’Live Free’ motto and finally end their status as an island of prohibition by passing this bill.“
Founded in 1995, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is the nation’s leading cannabis policy reform organization. MPP has played a central role in passing dozens of cannabis policy reforms in states across the country, including 10 successful cannabis legalization campaigns, and also works to advance federal reforms.