House passes legalization bill with veto-proof majority; Senate tables bill without a hearing or a vote
Last update: June 23, 2020
New Hampshire continues to lag behind other New England states on cannabis policy, but the tide appears to be turning. Now that the “Live Free or Die” state is surrounded by jurisdictions where cannabis is legal for adults, the arguments for maintaining prohibition become weaker each day.
Since the Senate and governor have already made it clear that they’re not ready to support legalizing and regulating cannabis sales in 2020, advocates decided to refocus their efforts on supporting HB 1648, a bill that would simply legalize possession and limited home cultivation for adults 21 and older — similar to Vermont’s legalization law. The House passed HB 1648 in a 236-112 vote on February 20. You can read a summary of the bill here.
To legalize cannabis in New Hampshire, we’ll also have to either overcome Gov. Chris Sununu’s opposition or convince him to evolve. It would be possible to override his potential veto if two-thirds of the House and Senate could be convinced to support the legalization bill.
Both chambers of legislature vote to legalize home cultivation for patients; governor vetoes bill, and override falls three votes short
On May 2, 2019, for the first time since 2012, the Senate approved a bill that would allow home cultivation of cannabis by registered patients and caregivers. In a 14-10 vote, the Senate passed HB 364, which would allow possession of three mature plants, three immature plants, and 12 seedlings for each patient. The House had already passed the bill in a voice vote on March 7, 2019.
Unfortunately, Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed the bill on August 2, 2019. The House voted to override the governor’s veto on September 18 in a 259-120 vote, but the effort fell short by three votes in the Senate on the following day. An identical bill, SB 420, passed the Senate in February 2020 in a voice vote, but the House suspended its work in light of COVID-19 and did not choose to make the bill a priority.
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.
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.
MPP’s Matt Simon and former Rep. Evalyn Merrick — who sponsored medical cannabis legislation — after the signing of HB 573 in 2013.
N.H. stops arresting people for possessing small amounts of cannabis and enables annulment of records!
On July 18, 2017, Gov. Chris Sununu signed HB 640, a cannabis decriminalization bill, into law. Under the new law, effective September 16, 2017, penalties for possessing three quarters of an ounce or less of cannabis are reduced from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil violation punishable only by a fine (a summary of the law is here).
Then, in 2019, Gov. Sununu signed HB 399, which allows people who received misdemeanor convictions for possessing small amounts of cannabis prior to decriminalization to have their records annulled. The law took effect on January 1, 2020.
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 cannabis policy reforms.