GOP-Controlled New Hampshire House Votes To Legalize Marijuana Possession And Cultivation
The GOP-controlled New Hampshire House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill to legalize marijuana possession and personal cultivation for adults.
Members passed the legislation, sponsored by Rep. Carol McGuire (R), in a 241-113 vote. This comes one day after the chamber narrowly rejected a separate, broader legalization proposal that would have regulated commercial production and sales.
The approved measure that is now advancing to the Senate will not allow cannabis commerce, but adults 21 and older would be allowed to possess and give away up to three-fourths of an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants, three of which could be mature.
The bill is virtually identical to an earlier version that also passed the House under Democratic control in 2020. The previous bill died in Senate committee.
The @NHHouseGOP and @NHHouseDems may not agree on much these days, but they agree it should be legal for adults to grow and possess cannabis for personal use. HB 629 passed the House this morning 241-113 and will proceed to @TheNHSenate. #NHPolitics https://t.co/g6BWm2dVGx
— Matt Simon (@MattSimonSez) January 6, 2022
“It is not—and never has been—the job of government to try to protect you from hurting yourself,” Rep. Max Abramson (R) said ahead of Thursday’s vote. “And outside of the 1950s B horror movies, it has never been the job of government to protect you from a plant.”
Under the measure, there are penalties for public consumption, violating restrictions on home cultivation such as by growing in a publicly visible space and extracting cannabis in a dangerous manner.
“This is truly a bipartisan issue with strong and wide support from Granite Staters,” Rep. Mark Warden (R) said. “The war on cannabis is a war on people. Those people are our neighbors and our constituents.”
New Hampshire lawmakers have had their pick of marijuana reform legislation, with at least six new cannabis legalization proposals having been recently filed for the 2022 session. On Wednesday, the chamber defeated one bill that would have established a retail market for adult-use cannabis.
Rep. Daryl Abbas (R), the chairman of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety, introduced legislation to allow adults to possess and purchase marijuana from state-run dispensaries.
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Before Thursday’s vote, Abbas complained about the process, urging members to take more time to review, hold public hearings and unify the competing measures instead of advancing the noncommercial legalization bill.
“In order for us to put forward the best bill possible, we cannot just keep passing all these bills that have inconsistent possession limits,” he said. “It would create confusion amongst the public, and it sends mixed messages, messages on the on the exact policy you want to put forward.”
Meanwhile, three lawmakers—Reps. Joshua Adjutant (D), Renny Cushing (D) and Andrew Prout (R)—each filed separate bills to put marijuana legalization on the state’s 2022 ballot.
It would take a supermajority 60 percent vote in both chambers to advance any of the proposed constitutional amendments. But while that may be a tall task in the GOP-controlled legislature, if they’re successful, it would enable lawmakers to avoid a likely veto on statutory reform legislation from anti-legalization Gov. Chris Sununu (R).
Should legislators approve placing a constitutional amendment to legalize cannabis on the ballot, 67 percent of voters would then have to vote in favor for it to be enacted. Recent polling indicates that residents are ready for the reform, with three in four New Hampshirites favoring legalization.
There are also new 2022 bills to expand the state’s existing law that decriminalizes low-level cannabis possession and to prevent police from using the smell of marijuana as probable cause for a search. Bills to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms and more widely reduce penalties for non-violent drug offenses have also been introduced.
While the governor remains opposed to adult-use legalization, advocates are encouraged that he signed a bill in August adding opioid use disorder as a qualifying condition for the state’s medical cannabis program and also allows out-of-state patients to access dispensaries.
In 2017, Sununu signed a bill decriminalizing marijuana possession in the Granite State, though he continues to oppose adding a legal commercial cannabis sales component.
Separately, a New Hampshire Senate committee in March heard testimony on a House-passed bill to allow medical marijuana patients to grow a limited number of plants for personal use. But it was ultimately tabled in the full chamber.
In 2019, lawmakers sent a medical cannabis homegrow bill to Sununu’s desk, but he vetoed it.
Meanwhile, other nearby northeast states such as Maine and Vermont have already legalized recreational cannabis.
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Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.