The New Hampshire Senate approved a bill on Thursday that would allow medical marijuana patients and caregivers to cultivate their own cannabis.
While medical cannabis was legalized in the state in 2013, growing the plant for personal use is currently considered a felony offense. The Senate agreed to change that policy, passing a home grow bill in a voice vote.
The legislation—designated as SB 420, perhaps in a legislative staffer’s nod to cannabis culture—would let registered patients and caregivers cultivate up to three mature plants, three immature plants and 12 seedlings each.
Both the House and Senate approved similar legislation last year, but it was vetoed by Gov. Chris Sununu (R). The House mustered enough votes to override the veto, but the Senate came just three votes short of being able to do the same.
“This bill presents Gov. Sununu with a great opportunity to continue his evolution on cannabis policy,” Matt Simon, New England political director of the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a press release. “Patients all over New Hampshire are benefitting from cannabis as an alternative to opioids, but many are unable to afford the expensive products that are available at dispensaries.”
“Home cultivation is a cost-effective option that is available to patients and adults in all neighboring jurisdictions, and there is no good reason it should remain a crime for patients in the ‘Live Free or Die’ state,” he said.
Prior to the vote, three senators spoke in favor of the legislation and none spoke out against it. The bill now heads to the House.
But while advocates consider the vote a positive step, it still faces obstacles ahead.
“The fact that no senators spoke against SB 420 is an encouraging development, but patients aren’t out of the woods yet,” Simon told Marijuana Moment. “Although the bill passed in a voice vote, it was easy to hear that Senate President Donna Soucy (D) voted against the bill. Last year, Soucy and two other Democratic senators voted to uphold Governor Sununu’s veto on a similar bill.”
“Patients will either have to convince Sununu to evolve or gain a few votes in the Senate if SB 420 is to become law,” he said.
Meanwhile, the legislature is also considering a bill that would legalize marijuana for adult use in the state—though it would not provide for retail sales. The non-commercial legalization legislation was approved by a House committee last month.
Lawmakers are hoping that removing the sales element of a legalization bill will be more palatable to the governor, who has said he opposes full-scale commercial legalization.
A full tax-and-regulate marijuana legalization bill did pass the House last year, but after receiving a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, it ultimately stalled and died. Sununu did sign a modest decriminalization measure last year, however.
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.