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The Proposed Cannabis Legislation in New Hampshire

It's the only state in New England that still considers recreational cannabis use illegal.

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New Hampshire is the only state in New England that still considers recreational cannabis use illegal. The legalization of recreational cannabis has indeed been a journey for New Hampshire despite the many attempts to legalize it.

Even the use of therapeutic marijuana has faced a strict medical cannabis framework since its legalization in 2013. While recreational cannabis is still illegal in New Hampshire, it's not considered a criminal offense. The good news is that the state is shaking some things up.

The change in the cannabis landscape in the Granite State results from the clear evidence of societal acceptance. Plus, more than 70% of voters support the bill's legalization.

New Hampshire has had a conservative stance on the use of cannabis. The medical cannabis bill (HB573) became law (RSA 126-X) on July 23, 2013, but it came with strict rules and regulations. The law only allows patients with qualifying medical conditions to possess and use cannabis from licensed providers as defined in state law. However, the state does allow visitors who are qualifying patients to purchase medical cannabis from New Hampshire.

Once you obtain a prescription, you can receive cannabis from Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs). 

Gov. Chris Sununu says he is ready to support the legalization of recreational use as long as the right policy and framework are in place. "[New Hampshire] is the only state in New England where recreational use is illegal. Knowing that most of our residents support legalization, it is reasonable to assume change is inevitable," Sununu said in May 2023. "To ignore this reality would be shortsighted and harmful. That is why, with the right policy and framework in place, I stand ready to sign a legalization bill that puts the State of NH in the drivers seat, focusing on harm reduction — not profits."

Gov. Sununu proposes a system similar to liquor sales regulations in New Hampshire, which prioritizes minimizing harm over profit. Furthermore, his idea was to maintain state control over marijuana marketing, sales and distribution.

Proposed Cannabis Legislation in New Hampshire

Gov. Sununu has paved the way for passing a new bill to legalize cannabis in New Hampshire. House Bill 1633, which the House passed on February 22, 2024, is waiting to be passed by the Senate before it reaches the governor's desk. The goal of HB 1633 is to establish the legalization, control and taxation of cannabis in the state of New Hampshire. This bill also modifies several current laws to make room for new ones.

As Gov. Sununu requested, the proposed legislative framework will regulate cannabis use similarly to the state's liquor laws. This will result in renaming the current commission from the Liquor Commission to the Liquor and Cannabis Commission.

Key elements and amendments proposed in the legislation include:

  • State control: The state will oversee the distribution and access to cannabis.
  • Protection of minors: The legislation will keep cannabis from children and schools.
  • Marketing and messaging: New Hampshire state would control marketing and messaging around cannabis. For example, the bill prohibits specific marketing approaches like billboards and digital ads.
  • Prohibition of Marijuana Miles: This legislation prohibits "marijuana miles," referring to the concentration of cannabis shops within a single city or town.
  • Local authority: Towns and cities would be free to ban cannabis shops if they choose to do so.
  • Protection against discrimination: Adds safeguards against discrimination due to cannabis usage.
  • Age restrictions and possession amount: The law would allow anybody who is 21 years or older to buy and have up to four ounces of cannabis flower, 10 grams of concentrate, or 2,000 milligrams of THC from any of the state's 15 authorized dispensaries.
  • Possession amount for qualifying patients: If the consumer is a qualifying patient, they can cultivate three mature cannabis plants, three immature cannabis plants, and 12 seedlings at their residence.

Grace WattikanGrace WattikanGrace WattikanThe proposed legislation holds several implications for the state and its citizens, both short-term and long-term.

HB 1633 marks a significant shift in New Hampshire's stance on cannabis use. Since it's the only state in the Northeast that hasn't legalized recreational use, there's a high expectation that this bill will become law. Now, all the attention shifts to the Senate and whether or not they will pass the bill or send it back to the drawing board.

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