New Hampshire
Last Update: September 17, 2014

N.H. House votes to decriminalize marijuana possession in 2014, but Senate and governor block progress; election season offers hope for 2015

The New Hampshire House approved a bill March 12 that would significantly reduce the harms caused by marijuana prohibition in New Hampshire. HB 1625, sponsored by Rep. Adam Schroadter (R-Newmarket) and seven co-sponsors, passed in an overwhelming 215-92 (70%) vote. Unfortunately, in April, the Senate refused to grant the bill a hearing.

Rep. Schroadter’s sensible bill would have reduced the penalty for possessing an ounce or less of marijuana to a violation punishable by a fine of up to $100. This would have brought New Hampshire’s laws in line with those of other New England states, all of which have “decriminalized” simple possession. The bill would have also reduced maximum penalties for possessing or selling amounts greater than one ounce.

The House has now passed “decriminalization” bills five times in recent history, but each has been killed in the Senate:

  • In 2008, HB 1623 passed the House 193-141.
  • In 2010, HB 1653 passed the House 214-137.
  • In 2012, a year in which Republicans controlled nearly 75% of the House, HB 1526 passed 162-161.
  • In 2013, HB 621 passed the House 214-115.
  • In 2014, HB 1625 passed the House 215-92.

Fortunately, 2014 is an election year, and four of the state’s 24 senators have decided not to seek re-election. This has created several opportunities to improve the make-up of the Senate. Click here to read MPP’s New Hampshire voter guide for details.

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, which included gutting the affirmative defense provisions, removing PTSD from the list of conditions, and requiring written permission from property owners or tenants before patients may use marijuana on private property. 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 opintion 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.

We are also working to pass legislation to improve the law, such as HB 1622, a 2014 bill that would allow limited home cultivation by qualifying patients. HB 1622 passed the House by an overwhelming 227-73 margin on March 6. Sadly, the Senate Health, Education, and Human Services Committee refused to take action on behalf of desperate patients, referring the bill to a meaningless "interim study" rather than passing it.

Unfortunately, the attorney general's office has recommended yet another unneccessary delay that will harm patients. It seems clear that New Hampshire’s medical marijuana law will need to be improved by the legislature before it becomes workable for patients, so we are already working with legislators on getting good bills introduced for 2015.

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, 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 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.

Based on Colorado's Amendment 64 and sponsored by Rep. Steve Vaillancourt (R-Manchester), HB 492 would have ended New Hampshire's failed prohibition of marijuana and replaced it with a system of sensible regulation. It would have allowed adults 21 and older to cultivate up to six plants for personal use, in addition to creating a system for taxing and regulating the cultivation, production, and sale of marijuana.

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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