N.H. will consider decriminalization, legalization bills in 2016; state finally begins issuing medical marijuana ID cards
Last update: December 22, 2015
New Hampshire had a great opportunity in 2015 to join the rest of New England by decriminalizing marijuana possession. The effort got off to a strong start when HB 618, sponsored by Rep. Adam Schroadter (R-Newmarket) and seven co-sponsors, passed the House by a huge 297-67 margin March 11. This sensible bill would have reduced the penalty for possessing up to one-half ounce of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a violation.
Unfortunately, although the Senate held a heated debate over the bill on the last day of its session June 4, senators were not able to agree on a compromise, and the bill was “tabled.” As a result of this temporary setback, possession of up to one ounce remains punishable by up to a year in jail or a fine of up to $2,000.
While some politicians continue to oppose sensible reforms, public opinion continues to turn strongly against the prohibition of marijuana. In July, new polling from the University of New Hampshire Survey Center found that 60% of Granite Staters support legalizing marijuana and 72% support decriminalization.
The fight will continue when the legislature reconvenes in January 2016. Rep. Schroadter has pre-filed a new decriminalization bill, HB 1631, and two legalization bills have also been pre-filed in the House.
If you live in New Hampshire, please check to see how your state senator voted on HB 618 and follow up with an email.
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 card to a patient; four dispensaries expected to open in 2016
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.
On June 9, 2015, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that three applicants had received approval to operate four dispensaries (known as alternative treatment centers or ATCs) in the state. The dispensaries are expected to open in the first quarter of 2016. You can read more about the program and access application forms at the department’s website.
A summary of the law is available here.
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.
An October 2, 2014 WMUR Granite State Poll found that 60% of New Hampshire adults supported the bill — HB 492. 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.
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