New Hampshire is well on its way to becoming a legalized state.
New Hampshire’s House of Representatives earlier approved a measure that would lead to the legalization of recreational cannabis in the state. On Tuesday, members of the House voted 207-139 in favor of HB 656, the bill that seeks to legalize the possession and cultivation of cannabis for recreational purposes.
The bill allows New Hampshire residents to cultivate up to three cannabis plants for personal use and to possess up to three-fourths of an ounce of weed. The House had also amended the bill to take out retail sales of cannabis. The legislation also provides for the creation of a regulatory system related to the cultivation and distribution of cannabis, as well as taxes.
To recall, HB 656 was initially passed by the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety subcommittee last year. But the full committee ultimately rejected the bill in November and decided not to recommend it to the House. The Committee argued that legalization of recreational cannabis would put the state in conflict with federal law. The Drug Enforcement Administration has listed cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance.
The bill allows New Hampshire residents to cultivate up to three cannabis plants for personal use and to possess up to three-fourths of an ounce of weed.
On Tuesday, New Hampshire’s Representatives proved to be undeterred by the Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee’s non-binding recommendation against recreational cannabis and voted to overturn the initial vote and instead pass HB 656. It also helped that the bill had the support of a progressive member of the GOP (Grand Old Party). Gene Chandler, who recently got the gavel back as House Speaker, was a huge factor in the bill’s successful passage.
Currently, there is a standing legislative study commission in charge of reviewing and researching the potential legalized commercial weed in New Hampshire. This state commission is expected to submit its recommendation later this year.
However, instead of sending the approved legislation directly to state Senate, which must vote on the bill next, the House referred HB 656 back to the Ways and Means Committee. The Committee will either hold hearings on the HB 656 before sending it back to the House for yet another vote, or decline to take action and send it to the state Senate.
HB 656 is similar to a legislation passed by the House of Representatives in the neighboring state of Vermont last week. Vermont is also now awaiting action on the bill by its own Senate. Once it gets the green light, Vermont will be the ninth state in the U.S. to legalize recreational cannabis, after Nevada, Maine, Washington, California, Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, and Massachusetts. Hopefully, New Hampshire is going to be the 10th.
The approval of the bill comes in the heels of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session’s decision to revoke a policy that eased the enforcement of federal cannabis laws in legalized states. Sessions, who is a vocal opponent of cannabis legalization, is instead giving federal prosecutors a free hand as to how aggressively they would enforce federal laws in states that have already legalized cannabis.
Medical cannabis in New Hampshire
The state officially legalized medical cannabis in 2013. Patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions, or chronic or terminal diseases are allowed to use cannabis for treatment only after all other means of treatment have failed. Patients are also prohibited from growing their own weed. Needless to say, New Hampshire’s medical cannabis laws are considered to be among the stricter ones in the country.
New Hampshire also decriminalized the personal possession of cannabis in small quantities in September 2017. With this, misdemeanors are only fined $100 for the first and second offense and $300 for the third offense. For the fourth offense committed within three years of all the previous ones, the offender would face misdemeanor charges.