Following the recommendation of the New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, the House of Representatives have voted 209-147 to approve a bill to end marijuana prohibition in the state. From full legalization to criminal record expungement, New Hampshire has at last joined all of its neighboring states (and Canada) to end its failed war on weed.
A Legalization Bill Finally Won the Support of New Hampshire’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee
Last year, it looked liked adult-use legalization was on its way to clearing the New Hampshire legislature. In retrospect, legalization advocates are glad it didn’t. Last year’s bill did not include any provisions to legalize and regulate a retail industry, as in Vermont. That bill did not receive a recommendation from the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. But in an effort to override the committee, the House voted to overturn the recommendation. Further committee action prevented it from reaching the Senate, however.
In fact, New Hampshire made national weed legalization history back in 2014, when the state House of Representatives became the first to approve an adult-use bill. The New Hampshire Senate subsequently blocked the bill. This year, however, the New Hampshire Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee set its own first with a narrow 10-9 vote recommending legalization.
But this year’s bill to legalize adult use in New Hampshire faces one more obstacle on its path to becoming law. And that obstacle is Republican Gov. Chris Sununu. Before House Bill 481 was even up for committee consideration, Gov. Sununu vowed to veto any legalization bill that reached his desk. In New Hampshire, lawmakers can override a veto with a two-thirds vote in both chambers. With Wednesday’s 209-147 vote, House lawmakers are just shy of two-thirds support. But House Speaker Steve Shurtleff (D) feels the bill could garner enough support to override a veto. He thinks the same is true in the Senate.
New Hampshire Eyes Future Without Failed Marijuana Prohibition Policy
Shurtleff will have to be right if New Hampshire wants a legal-weed future before electing its next governor. And that future will look a lot like the present in the legal-weed states surrounding New Hampshire. HB 481 sets fairly standard limits on personal consumption. It allows individuals to possess, gift, consume and cultivate cannabis and buy it from license retailers. It establishes a governor-appointed commission—which could be a disaster if lawmakers have to override a veto—to approve and issue licenses for commercial cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, testing and retail. And it would establish an 11-member regulatory panel to review policy and gather data on the program.
In short, the bill is much more substantial and comprehensive than the legislation that almost passed last year. And for that reason, legalization advocates are celebrating Wednesday’s House vote on the bill. “The House vote highlights just how little support remains for maintaining marijuana prohibition in the Granite State,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for Marijuana Policy Project. “There is no reason to continue punishing adults for consuming a substance that is less harmful than alcohol.”