New year brings new hope for legalization efforts; advocates will seek to end state’s “island of prohibition” status
Last update: January 4, 2019
Now that all three of New Hampshire’s neighboring states have made cannabis legal for adults 21 and older, the odds of ending marijuana prohibition in New Hampshire have improved substantially. In the 2018 election, voters sent a strong message to the political establishment by electing candidates who support legalization. In June 2018, the New Hampshire Democratic Party added support for legalizing and regulating marijuana to its platform. Then, in November, Democrats won majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. Notably, several prohibitionist Republicans were defeated by Democrats who supported cannabis reforms.
Gov. Chris Sununu has come out strongly in opposition to legalization efforts. However, it will be possible to override his potential veto if two-thirds of the House and Senate can be convinced to do so. In December, House Speaker Steve Shurtleff predicted that the bill would pass despite the governor’s objections.
A study commission has been considering legalization and regulation since fall 2017, and it issued 54 detailed recommendations in November 2018.
While some politicians continue to oppose sensible reforms, public opinion continues to turn strongly against the prohibition of marijuana. Four consecutive polls published by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center found that at least 60% of Granite Staters support legalizing marijuana. The university’s most recent poll, in February 2018, found more than two-to-one support for HB 656, a bill that would have legalized possession and limited home cultivation.
On January 9, 2018, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 207-139 to pass a limited legalization bill, HB 656, but its progress was thwarted by a House committee and it did not advance to the Senate. With your generous support, MPP and its allies expect to be more successful in 2019.
N.H. stops arresting people for possessing small amounts of marijuana!
On July 18, 2017, Gov. Chris Sununu signed HB 640, a marijuana decriminalization bill, into law. Under the new law, effective September 16, 2017, penalties for possessing three quarters of an ounce or less of marijuana are reduced from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil violation punishable only by a fine.
Although the House had passed decriminalization bills several times in recent years, this bill passed overwhelmingly in a 318-36 vote on March 8. The Senate passed an amended version in a 17-6 vote. On June 1, the House approved the Senate’s amendment on a voice vote, sending the bill to Gov. Chris Sununu’s desk (a summary of the law is here).
MPP advocated for decriminalization in New Hampshire for more than a decade in advance of this victory. However, we know that this progress would not have been possible without the hard work of our many dedicated allies. In particular, we’d like to thank attorney Paul Twomey, the ACLU-NH, the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance, and HB 640 sponsor Rep. Renny Cushing (D-Hampton) for their tireless efforts in support of sensible marijuana policy reforms.
Bill to expand, improve therapeutic cannabis program takes effect
On June 28, 2017, Gov. Chris Sununu signed into law HB 160, which added post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other conditions to the law, and HB 157, which added moderate to severe chronic pain. HB 157 went into effect on August 15, and HB 160 went into effect on August 27. You can read a summary of the changes here.
New Hampshire’s therapeutic cannabis program was created on July 23, 2013, when then-Gov. Maggie Hassan signed a bill allowing seriously ill New Hampshire residents to use cannabis for medical purposes.
A terminally ill lung cancer patient, Linda Horan, became the first patient to receive an ID card in December 2015 after she sued the state and won, and she was able to visit a dispensary in Maine to obtain cannabis legally. MPP was proud to have supported this lawsuit, and we are grateful to Linda, her attorney, Paul Twomey, and Rep. Renny Cushing (D-Hampton) for their efforts on behalf of all New Hampshire patients.
The first N.H. dispensary began serving patients on April 30, 2016, and the other three approved dispensaries opened in the summer of 2016. A bill passed in 2018 that will allow two of the existing dispensaries to open a second location if they choose to do so.
You can read more about the program and access application forms at the department’s website.
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.