The New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee passed a bill allowing possession of cannabis for those 21 and older and the right to grow up to six plants. Adults will be able to possess five grams of concentrates and three-quarters of an ounce of cannabis.
However, the bill intentionally has no provision to set up a formal marketplace. Vermont has a similar situation now where cannabis is legal but one cannot sell it in dispensaries. It will thus still be technically illegal to sell cannabis in New Hampshire.
“This is something that the people of the state of New Hampshire want. They don’t want to be treated like they’re criminals if they have a plant,” said Committee Chairman Renny Cushing (D). Cushing said the bill allows New Hampshire residents to purchase cannabis in Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine and use it in the state.
However, it is illegal to be caught transporting cannabis across state lines, even if both states have legalized markets.
There are currently 8,000 patients in New Hampshire’s medical marijuana program. Senator Maggie Hassan (D) signed legislation establishing the program in 2013 as Governor at the time. However, the list of qualifying causes to be accepted into the program is quite small.
“We see cannabis legalization as the next logical step for the state of New Hampshire to take,” said Jeanne Hruska, political director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Hampshire.
The bill is expected to be voted on by the full New Hampshire House on February 6th. Because New Hampshire’s State Senate is also Democratic, they are likely to pass the companion bill in their respective chamber.
However, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu (R) vetoed cannabis legislation in the past that would have set up a fully-functioning market. He also vetoed a bill previously that would have allowed home cultivation. But he did sign a bill that eliminated the possibility of jail time for those caught possessing small amounts of cannabis.
The New Hampshire Association of Police Chiefs has been leading the opposition to the bill. But conservatives are not united in their opposition to the bill. The Koch Brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which pushes for fiscally conservative policies, support legalization.
“The results of prohibition have never achieved the promises made and resulted in damage to society,” said AFP Deputy Director Ross Connolly.
In the House, Carol McGuire (R) has been a champion of the bill as its sponsor.
“This takes it out of the commercial realm and lets people grow their own and use it in the privacy of their own home,” McGuire said. “I would rather have people who want to use it be able to grow it in the privacy of their own backyards and not have to travel to other states.”
Moreover, State Senator Carol Epsom (R) is a supporter of the bill, having spoken at a press conference recently in its favor.
New Hampshire is more of a swing state than its neighbors Massachusetts and Vermont. It is also the site of the presidential primary this month.
“Adults in the ‘Live Free or Die’ state should not be punished for their choice to use a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol,” said Matt Simon, New England Director of the Marijuana Policy Project.