N.H. elects governor who has pledged support for decriminalization
Last update: November 9, 2016
Despite the repeated passage of decriminalization bills in the New Hampshire House of Representatives, the “Live Free or Die” state remains the only state in New England that continues to arrest and prosecute people simply for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Fortunately, that appears likely to change in 2017. For the first time in its history, New Hampshire has elected a governor, Chris Sununu (R), who is clearly on record in favor of decriminalizing marijuana possession.
The make-up of the state Senate, which has killed seven decriminalization bills dating back to 2008, also improved in the 2016 election. Several of the worst prohibitionist senators from last session did not seek re-election, and some of the candidates who replaced them have much more enlightened positions on marijuana policy. Now that two neighboring states, Massachusetts and Maine, have legalized marijuana for adult use, New Hampshire appears poised to finally decriminalize possession in the 2017 session.
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.
State finally issues first ID cards; four dispensaries begin serving patients
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, As a result, the rollout of the program was beset by delays. MPP’s Matt Simon described the situation — and the frustrations felt by patients — in “Confusion, Delays, and Continued Arrests,” a report issued on the two-year “anniversary” of the signing of HB 573.
In November 2015, the Department of Health and Human Services began allowing patients to pre-register for medical marijuana ID cards. Despite the fact that patients were still being arrested in the state, the AG’s office argued that patients should not be able to obtain ID cards (which would protect them from arrest) until the first dispensary was ready to open. A terminally ill lung cancer patient, Linda Horan, became the first patient to receive an ID card in December 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 dispensary began serving patients on April 30, 2016, and the other three approved dispensaries opened over the summer.
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, 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. 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. In 2016, two consecutive polls from new polling from the University of New Hampshire Survey Center have found that 60% of Granite Staters support legalizing marijuana. Despite this strong public support, the House killed two bills in 2016 that would have regulated marijuana for legal adult use.
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