N.H. decriminalization bill takes effect!
Last update: September 15, 2017
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 passed decriminalization bills several times in recent years, this year’s 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 new law is here).
MPP has been advocating for decriminalization in New Hampshire for more than a decade. However, we know that this victory 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.
One bill that did not advance in 2017 was HB 472, which would allow qualifying patients and caregivers to cultivate up to two mature plants and 12 seedlings. This bill passed the House despite having been voted down in committee. It was retained for further study by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, which voted in September not to move forward with the bill.
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.
You can read more about the program and access application forms at the department’s website.
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.
Unfortunately, then-Gov. Maggie Hassan said she would veto the bill if it reached her desk. The bill failed to pass the House on a second vote after the governor’s veto threat.
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 May 2017, found 68% support. Legalization is now much more popular than any N.H. politician.
Legislation that would legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana did not advance during the 2017 session. HB 656 has been retained for study by the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. SB 233 was considered but rejected by the Senate. Gov. Sununu signed HB 215 into law, creating a study commission to consider marijuana legalization. Unfortunately, the commission includes several opponents, so advocates are concerned that the issue may not receive a fair discussion.
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.