Some say it’s long overdue, but the New Hampshire House of Representatives finally voted to legalize cannabis just days after the Trump administration moved to rescind federal guidelines protecting state cannabis laws. The Bill is now moving into the state Senate, but it would allow people over 21 years of age to legally possess three-quarters of an ounce of cannabis and grow up to three mature cannabis plants at home.
Unfortunately, the law stipulates that retail sales locations would not be allowed. Considering the move made by the federal government to rescind the Cole Memo, this is a bold action taken by New Hampshire state representatives. But since the move was overwhelmingly slammed by dozens of members of Congress from both parties, it is not totally unexpected.
The New Hampshire House voted to amend a broader bill that would have allowed legal, taxed and regulated cannabis sales. Unfortunately, that legislation was defeated in committee in November. The reason being that there was a legislative study commission in the process of examining how legalized cannabis commerce might work in the state, and passing the bill would have been premature.
However, supporters of the bill were able to successfully move a floor amendment to scale the proposal back to only legalize possession and home cultivation. The vote on overturning the committee’s recommendation to kill the bill was 183 to 162. Lawmakers then amended the bill to remove the commercialization provisions via voice vote. It finally passed and was approved by a tally of 207 to 139.
But the fight is long from over. In the past, similar bills decriminalizing possession of small amounts of cannabis have been killed in the Senate. The House repeatedly approved bills to only to see those proposals consistently defeated in the other chamber. It wasn’t until last year that the support of newly elected Governor Chris Sununu provided a boost to the decriminalization effort and a decriminalization was enacted into law.
Advocates are working to expand on that victory by removing the fines that are assessed to adults possessing small amounts of cannabis, as well as adding in legal home cultivation.
But reports are indicating that Sununu isn’t on board. In relation to recreational cannabis in his state, he said, “Are you kidding? We’re in the middle of one of the biggest drug crises the state has ever seen. To go to a full recreational marijuana when other states that are seeing all the problems it has in other states and seeing the issues it’s bearing, it’s definitely not something that I’m supportive of right now.”
But advocates in this state are working hard for legalization. Back in 2014, the New Hampshire House became the first legislative chamber in U.S. history to approve a cannabis legalization bill. But as is consistent with the story of cannabis in this state, it later died in the Senate.
The residents of New Hampshire, however, seem to be on board. A poll from the University of New Hampshire conducted last year found that 68 percent of New Hampshire adults support legalizing cannabis.
The state does, however, have a fully functioning and operation medical cannabis market. New Hampshire lawmakers were able to secure their medical laws through the introduction of House Bill 573. It was a legislative bill passed in 2013, which was victorious by a margin of 284 to 66 in the House, and 18 to 6 in the Senate. Perhaps one of the only times a cannabis bill wasn’t shot down in the Senate. It allows patients to legally possess 2 ounces every 10 days but does not allow for home cultivation.
Currently, there are only 4 licensed dispensaries operating in the state, out of a total of 4 allowed. There are only 2,100 registered patients in New Hampshire, who generate a total of 12 million USD yearly.
To summarize it’s not the largest medical market in the nation by any shot, but serves its community well. Legislation is also being considered that would allow medical cannabis patients and caregivers to grow cannabis under certain conditions. But industry insiders say that this would be dangerous competition for the dispensaries that are up and running, which considering extremely large startup licensing fees, are struggling to break even.
But patient numbers are set to explode as a bill is under consideration that would add severe pain and PTSD as qualifying conditions.
So we’ll keep our eye on New Hampshire and whether or not this new bill legalizing possession and cultivation is able to pass the Senate. If it should happen to become enacted into law, it might give existing dispensaries a run for their money because state residents will be able to cultivate their own cannabis and won’t be reliant on the established medical market. But of course, not everyone wishes to grow at home so if this will have a significant impact or not is yet to be seen.