N.H. Senate passes decriminalization bill!
Last update: May 11, 2017
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.
HB 640, the bill that would decriminalize possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, passed the House of Representatives in an overwhelming 318-36 vote on March 8. The Senate passed an amended version in a 17-6 vote on May 11 (a summary of the bill, as amended, is here). Next, the bill will go back to the House for a final vote to concur with the Senate’s amendments. Gov. Chris Sununu is expected to sign the bill when it reaches his desk.
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.
House and Senate pass bills to expand, improve therapeutic cannabis program
On May 11, 2017, the Senate approved HB 160, a bill that would add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition for the therapeutic cannabis program. The bill was amended to include the text of several other bills that would expand and improve New Hampshire’s therapeutic cannabis law. As amended, the bill would also make cannabis an option for patients suffering from moderate to severe chronic pain. The House is expected to concur with the Senate’s amendment, and Gov. Sununu is expected to sign the bill when it reaches his desk.
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 14-7 by the House Health, Human Services, and Elderly Affairs Committee. The House voted 213-118 to overturn the committee’s recommendation before passing the bill in a voice vote. HB 472 has been retained for further study by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, and it could receive a vote next year.
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.
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.
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