Cannabis Legislation Makes Rounds In New Hampshire State House
In a remarkable move late last month, the House Criminal Justice Committee recommended that the 400-member panel withdraw two bills that would significantly loosen marijuana laws in the state. The New Hampshire House of Representatives has recommended passing two bills legalizing marijuana in recent months, but the Senate has put both measures on hold, a pattern that has persisted for years.
After a hearing, the committee recommended that the passage of House Bill 237, which would legalize marijuana use, and Act 629, which would have legalized and allowed cultivation throughout the country, be postponed until next year. In a 14-7 vote, all seven Democrats on the committee rejected the bills, as did the bill's sponsor, Rep. John D'Amato, D-Concord.
Gov. Chris Sununu has long opposed legalization, citing the opioid crisis, and the committee's vote is a sign that the fight for marijuana legalization in New Hampshire, usually driven by libertarian - and tendentious - lawmakers, could become more difficult in a Republican legislature. But the recommendation is not moving forward, as the entire House could repeal it or pass one of the bills. Surrounding states and Canada currently have some form of legalization, and advocates have turned to other states for help.
While the majority of the committee showed little interest in full legalization, is considered a less ambitious target to be more advantageous. Here's a look at cannabis-related bills that have made the rounds in the New Hampshire Legislature this year. Decriminalization of recreational marijuana, which means that cannabis can only be seized by police officers, rather than being caught in possession of small amounts.
The bill, House Bill 526, will be sent to the House Criminal Justice Committee for a hearing shortly. Before the measure takes effect, lawmakers are debating how to proceed: In 2020, they passed a bill to commute sentences for people arrested before marijuana was decriminalized, which Sununu vetoed. For now, it would set a cap on the number of fines that could be imposed on a person caught with cannabis.