CONCORD, N.H. – A broad, bipartisan coalition of marijuana legalization advocates on Tuesday denounced a senate committee’s 3-2 vote opposing HB 639, a bill to legalize marijuana for adults over 21. In polling, Granite Staters have consistently and overwhelmingly supported legalization, most recently at 71%.
Backed by a broad coalition of civil rights and policy groups, cannabis industry professionals, and New Hampshire activists, the bipartisan bill, sponsored by Representative Jason Osborne (R-Auburn) and co-sponsored by Representative Matt Wilhelm (D-Manchester), would allow adults who are over the age of 21 to possess and give away up to four ounces of marijuana.
As New Hampshire has continued to enforce its current marijuana possession laws, there are significant disparities in enforcement and resources:
- Despite New Hampshire’s decriminalization of marijuana possession in 2017, 1,120 people in 2021 alone were unnecessarily brought into New Hampshire’s criminal justice system for marijuana possession.
- Unnecessary arrests place a burden on New Hampshire residents and the judicial system as well as negatively affect access to employment, housing, and child custody, among others, for the person arrested. These collateral harms can last for decades, even after someone has served their time or paid any required fines.
- New Hampshire’s war on marijuana is a waste of tax dollars. For each marijuana arrest, tax dollars pay for a judge, a clerk, law enforcement officers, prosecutor, and others to process the case.
- New Hampshire’s marijuana laws are enforced with a staggering racial bias. In 2020, Black people were 4.8 times more likely to be brought into New Hampshire’s criminal justice system than white people despite both groups using cannabis at roughly the same rate. In Manchester and Concord, this disparity is even higher, with Black people 13.9 and 5.8 times more likely, respectively.
The broader coalition supporting this bill includes Americans for Prosperity – New Hampshire, The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, New Hampshire Cannabis Association, Prime ATC, Hon. Timothy Egan, Hon. Joe Hannon, Attorney Paul Twomey, and the Marijuana Policy Project:
Frank Knaack, policy director at the ACLU of New Hampshire, said, “New Hampshire’s war on marijuana does not make us safer, wastes taxpayer dollars, and ruins lives — it’s time for it to end. Pushing legalization off yet another year would show that lawmakers are out of step with their constituents and are okay with continuing to needlessly ensnare over a thousand people — disproportionately Black people — in New Hampshire’s criminal justice system every year. The state senate must end their apparent practice of failing to advance this legislation and make 2023 the year New Hampshire finally legalizes marijuana.”
Daryl Eames, founder of NH Cannabis Association LLC, said, “Unfortunately it appears certain senators are satisfied with the status quo of unfettered access for minors, tainted products and criminal activity associated with the illicit cannabis market that has served 100% of the demand of cannabis consumers for my entire adult life. The status quo has not worked, and does not work to protect the residents of this great state. Senators who continue to oppose legalization are living in an alternate reality, and it’s time that we held them accountable for their votes. Illicit dealers are happy to sell untested, unsafe cannabis and any other substance to our children, neighbors, family and friends. New Hampshire urgently needs sensible regulation.”
Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies, Marijuana Policy Project, said, “New Hampshire residents are ready to join the growing number of states that have legalized cannabis for adults, and it is time for the Senate to stop standing in the way of progress. HB 639 is a dramatic improvement over the status quo and reflects the priorities and values of New Hampshire. We urge the Senate to listen to the will of the people and finally end cannabis prohibition in the Live Free state by passing this bill this session.”
Press Release issued by the ACLU.