N.H. House passes legalization bill, then votes to kill it

Last update: March 23, 2018


On January 9, 2018, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 207-139 to pass a limited legalization bill, HB 656.

Unfortunately, instead of being transmitted to the Senate, the bill was sent to the House Ways and Means Committee, which usually only deals with bills that produce revenue. The committee recommended that the bill be sent to “interim study,” which would effectively kill it for the year. This recommendation was upheld by the House in a 153-135 vote on March 22.

If you live in New Hampshire, please check to see how your representative(s) voted and send them a follow-up message!

Instead of legalizing retail sales — which is something a study commission is considering — the amended HB 656 would have simply allowed adults to cultivate six plants, three of which could have been mature. It would also have legalized possession of three-quarters of an ounce or less, and marijuana in excess of that amount would have been legal as long as it was stored along with the plants that produced it. You can read a summary of the bill here.

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.

N.H. decriminalization bill takes effect!


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.

MPP’s Matt Simon and former Rep. Evalyn Merrick — who sponsored
medical marijuana legislation
after the signing of HB 573 in 2013.

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