New Hampshire
Last Update: January 29, 2015

N.H. advocates prepare to pass decriminalization law in 2015

The New Hampshire House and Senate will have an opportunity in 2015 to join the rest of New England by decriminalizing marijuana possession. HB 618, sponsored by Rep. Adam Schroadter (R-Newmarket) and seven co-sponsors, would reduce the penalty for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana to a fine of $100. This bill, which would significantly reduce the harms caused by marijuana prohibition in New Hampshire, will first be considered by the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

A similar bill passed the House with flying colors in 2014. Representatives approved HB 1625, in an overwhelming 215-92 (70%) vote. HB 1625 was the fifth decriminalization bill the House has approved since 2008, but unfortunately, the Senate refused to grant this sensible bill a hearing.

Fortunately, the situation in the Senate has changed significantly. Last year’s election resulted in several new senators being elected, and some returning senators have expressed support for decriminalization. As a result, MPP and its allies are more hopeful than ever about passing a decriminalization bill in 2015.

Please help us make this sensible reform a reality by asking your legislators to support HB 618.

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.

N.H. becomes 19th state to pass medical marijuana law, but patients are still fighting for legal protections and access

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, the law is not yet effective for patients. MPP’s Matt Simon described the situation — and the frustrations felt by patients — in an opinion editorial published in September.

A summary of the law is available here.

MPP and other advocates’ and legislative champions’ work on this bill did not stop with Gov. Hassan’s signature. We have been actively involved in the rulemaking and implementation process, and in July, on the one-year “anniversary” of Gov. Hassan signing HB 573, we held a press conference in front of the State House to raise awareness about the problems and delays.

Unfortunately, the attorney general's office has recommended yet another unnecessary delay that will harm patients. Patients have been told they cannot apply for legal protection until the first dispensary is ready to open. Fortunately, the Department of Health and Human Services received 14 applications from prospective dispensary operators in January 2015, and it is expected to approve at least two applicants by the end of February.

MPP's Matt Simon and former Rep. Evalyn Merrick — who sponsored medical marijuana legislation after the signing of HB 573.

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 25 WMUR Granite State Poll found that 60% of New Hampshire adults support 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.

After passing the House in January, HB 492 — sponsored by Rep. Steve Vaillancourt (R-Manchester) — was considered by the House Ways and Means Committee, which voted against recommending it for passage. In a March 26 vote, the House upheld the committee’s negative recommendation, effectively killing HB 492 for the year. Although HB 492 is dead, the idea of legalizing and regulating marijuana continues to gain support each year in the New Hampshire Legislature.

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