As New Hampshire lawmakers work to advance marijuana legalization, a House committee met on Thursday to discuss a more modest reform to allow medical cannabis patients to grow their own plants for therapeutic use.
The House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee held a hearing and received testimony on HB 431 from Rep. Wendy Thomas (D), as well as other proposals to expand the state’s medical marijuana program.
The home grow bill would allow registered cannabis patients and designated caregivers to cultivate up to three mature plants, three immature plants and 12 seedlings. They would have to be grown in an “enclosed, locked space” at a location that would have to be reported to regulators at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
“By growing their own cannabis, the patient can choose which effective strains to grow, and they would see a cost savings for their medication,” Thomas, who is a medical marijuana patient herself, said in her opening remarks.
“For many poor people with serious medical conditions, medical expenses and a reduced ability to work make getting cannabis difficult,” she said. “By allowing home cultivation, you are giving the therapeutic patients financial relief for their non-insurance-covered medicine.”
The bill would also expand the number and types of plants that the state’s medical cannabis dispensaries could cultivate for patients, increasing the limit per patient to 80 mature plants, 160 immature plants and an unlimited number of seedlings. As it stands, the cap is 80 plants and 160 seedlings.
“Home cultivation is consistent with our commitment to freedom and equality in a free society, in a state with a motto ‘Live Free or Die,'” Thomas said. “Adults should be allowed to grow cannabis plants in their homes for therapeutic use.”
Gov. Chris Sununu (R) vetoed a similar home grow bill in 2019.
The push to allow patients to grow their own cannabis goes back over a decade, starting with a discussion around incorporating the policy into a medical cannabis legalization measure in 2009. The first time a standalone home cultivation bill passed the legislature was 2012, but then-Gov. John Lynch (D) vetoed it and the Senate didn’t muster enough votes for an override.
In 2020, the Senate approved a home grow bill, SB 420, but the coronavirus pandemic derailed the legislative work for the year and it did not advance through the House.
“New Hampshire patients have been waiting far too long for their elected officials to legalize home cultivation,” Matt Simon, director of public and government relations at Prime Alternative Treatment Centers of New Hampshire, told Marijuana Moment. “Now that every other New England state has decided to allow home cultivation for adults, perhaps 2023 will be the year it finally happens for patients in the ‘Live Free or Die’ state.”
(Disclosure: Simon supports Marijuana Moment’s work through a monthly pledge on Patreon.)
The current legislation is scheduled for an executive session in the committee to receive a vote next week. Two other cannabis bills to expand the state’s medical marijuana program that the panel discussed on Thursday will also get votes next Wednesday.
One of the measures, HB 611, would amend statute to make it so severe pain on its own would be a qualifying condition for medical cannabis—not just severe pain that’s treatment-resistant as is the case under current law.
The other, HB 610, would allow practitioners who are licensed in New Hampshire to prescribe medication, and who possess a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registration to prescribe controlled substances, to issue medical marijuana recommendations to patients.
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The medical cannabis expansion effort is happening in the background of a broader push to legalize a commercial, adult-use cannabis market in New Hampshire, where a House committee has been workshopping a bill from bipartisan leadership in recent weeks.
A revised version of that legislation from House Majority Leader Jason Osborne (R) and Minority Leader Matt Wilhelm (D) is expected to receive a vote in the House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Liquor Subcommittee next week. It was recently revised to exclude home cultivation provisions in order to minimize the risk of a veto from the governor.
While there’s optimism about the prospects of legalization finally moving in the Granite State this year, advocates still have work cut out for them.
Republicans held on to the both the House and Senate after last year’s election, and the latter chamber is where marijuana reform has faced its toughest obstacles in past sessions even as the House has repeatedly approved legalization bills. The Senate rejected two House-passed reform bills last year, including one that would have created a non-commercial cannabis program and another providing for commerce under a state-run model.
In the Senate, there were some shifts that favor reform. For example, a Democratic senator who opposed legalization efforts was replaced by a Republican who voted in favor of ending prohibition during his time as a House member.
After the Senate rejected two reform bills last year, the House included legalization language as an amendment to separate criminal justice-related legislation—but that was also struck down in the opposite chamber.
A non-commercial legalization measure that was defeated had previously passed the House under Democratic control in 2020 but was defeated in the Senate at the committee stage.
Lawmakers also filed separate bills to put marijuana legalization on the state’s 2022 ballot, but the House rejected them.