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New Hampshire Lawmakers Debate Non-Commercial Marijuana Legalization Bill

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A New Hampshire House committee held a hearing on Thursday to discuss a bill that would legalize the possession and cultivation of marijuana for adults.

While broader recreational legalization legislation that included a legal sales component has advanced in prior sessions, no such bill has reached the governor’s desk yet. And so lawmakers are taking a different approach this time, pushing a cannabis reform proposal that excludes any commercialization model.

That bill, filed earlier this month, would simply allow adults 21 and older to possess and gift up to three-fourths an ounce of cannabis and grow up to six plants. Supporters are taking a page from neighboring Vermont, which approved non-commercial legalization in 2018.

The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee heard testimony from advocates, stakeholders and opponents—though opposition was limited. Just two individuals, including one representative, testified against the bill, and just two individuals signed a committee report expressing opposition—a lobbyist for the state police chiefs’ association and another lawmaker.

Rep. Carol McGuire (R), sponsor of the legislation, said at a press conference ahead of the hearing that it’s a “very simple bill” that specifically does not include a commercial element to bolster its chances of passage.

“This takes it out of the commercial realm and lets people grow their own and use it in the privacy of their own home,” she 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.”

Non-commercial legalization is not the end game, as advocates are hopeful that retail sales will eventually come. But with Gov. Chris Sununu (R) having voiced opposition to commercialization and vetoing a bill last year that would’ve allowed medical cannabis patients to cultivate for personal use, it’s about as far as lawmakers expect to get this year. (Sununu did sign a modest decriminalization bill in 2017, however.)

“The time has come to end our outdated policy of punishing adults for possessing cannabis,” McGuire said in a press release. “It does not make sense for New Hampshire to remain an island of prohibition.”

A vote on the bill within the panel that held the hearing is expected to come as early as next week.

“It’s absurd that the ‘Live Free or Die’ state remains so far behind its neighbors on cannabis policy,” Matt Simon, New England political director of the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment. “Now that Granite Staters can easily obtain cannabis from retail stores in Massachusetts, New Hampshire should definitely stop fining adults for possession and prosecuting them for home cultivation.”

New Hampshire is one of several states where cannabis reform is being considered as legislative sessions across the country come online.

Just in the Northeast region, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) included legalization in his budget this week, as did Rhode Island’s governor, who pitched a state-run cannabis model in her plan. In New Jersey, the legislature approved a referendum to put the question of recreational legalization before voters during the November election. Top lawmakers in Connecticut have also expressed confidence that marijuana reform will advance this year.

Marijuana Legalization Will Advance In Connecticut This Year, Top Lawmakers Say

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based senior editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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