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Medical Cannabis and Decriminalized
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N.H. Senate defeats legalization
Last update: April 29, 2022
On April 28, 2022, the New Hampshire Senate voted down a bill (HB 629) to make it legal for adults who are 21 or older to possess and grow small amounts of cannabis.
The “Live Free or Die” State will remain an island of prohibition — surrounded by jurisdictions where cannabis is legal — for at least another year.
Polling shows 74% of Granite State voters support legalizing cannabis. But, year after year, the Senate has ignored the will of voters and killed House-passed legalization bills.
2022 is an election year, so voters will have a chance to elect a new, more in-touch Senate. Be sure to sign up for our email alerts. We’ll send a voter guide as the election approaches.
Meanwhile, a Senate committee unanimously rejected a separate proposal (HB 1598) that would have legalized cannabis possession — but not home cultivation — while creating a state-run monopoly on retail sales. MPP urged significant amendments, explaining a state-run monopoly on cannabis sales is a poison pill that is extremely unlikely to get up and running due to federal law. The Senate agreed with the committee today, rejecting HB 1598 in a voice vote.
In addition to HB 629 and HB 1598, the legislature had several other proposals on legalization before it, which were defeated in the House. While New Hampshire lacks a citizen initiative process, lawmakers themselves can refer constitutional amendments to voters. The late, great Minority Leader Renny Cushing and others proposed voter referrals to legalize cannabis for adults (“CACRs”). They would require a 60% vote from both the House and Senate to place the measure on the ballot, then a full two-thirds of voters would have to sign on. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) — a prohibitionist — could not veto these measures. Unfortunately, all of the CACRs have stalled. However, HB 629 — a bill legalizing possession and home cultivation — is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Although the Senate has repeatedly killed legalization bills in past years, and its composition got more unfriendly to reform in the 2020 elections — it is getting increasingly difficult to ignore the overwhelming popular support. In May, a University of New Hampshire Survey Center poll found 75% support for legalization, with only 16% opposed.
N.H.’s decriminalization and annulment laws
On July 18, 2017, Gov. Chris Sununu signed HB 640, a cannabis decriminalization bill, into law. The law reduced penalties for possessing three-quarters of an ounce or less of cannabis 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.
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 are grateful to attorney Paul Twomey, the ACLU-NH, the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance, and HB 640 sponsor Rep. Renny Cushing (who passed away on March 7, 2022) for their tireless efforts in support of sensible cannabis policy reforms.