NH House votes to legalize recreational marijuana, sends bill back to committee

The House Ways and Means Committee will study regulation aspects of the proposed law.

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CONCORD, NH – On Tuesday the NH House voted in favor of legalizing recreational use of marijuana in New Hampshire by a vote of 207-139.

However, the New Hampshire House leadership then referred HB 656 to the House Ways & Means Committee after it passed the House floor. Therefore, the bill will not advance to the Senate until the House Ways & Means Committee either decides not to hear the bill (which seems possible since the bill no longer includes regulations or taxes) or until after it has been heard by the committee and receives a second floor vote.

According to the language of the amended version of the bill, adults are permitted:

to possess up to ¾ of an ounce of marijuana, 5 grams of hashish, and certain marijuana-infused products; permits adults to cultivate up to 6 marijuana plants at home in a secure location that is not visible from other properties, and to possess and process the marijuana produced from their plants at the same location; permits adults to give marijuana to other adults, provided it is not more than ¾ of an ounce of marijuana, 5 grams of hashish, or up to 300 mg of marijuana-infused products, or 3 immature plants; provides that smoking or vaporizing marijuana in public by an adult would be punishable by a $100 fine; provides that violations of the restrictions on cultivation would be a violation punishable by fine of up to $750; penalizes dangerous, volatile extraction; and permits adults to possess, make, and sell marijuana accessories to other adults.

You can read the full amended version of HB 656 here.

State Rep. Patrick Long, D-Manchester, who voted against the bill, explained the next step in the process.

“It’s not unusual for any bill that includes ‘regulations’ to go to Ways and Means. Regulations are required for “infused products,” Long said. “The Committee must have a hearing and a vote on the bill. It is required to go back to the House floor for another vote, before going to the Senate.
As for his own objections to the bill, Long said after doing his due diligence, he felt more programs and education were needed to be implemented before legalization of recreational marijuana.
“After attending a Behavioral Health Summit in New Hampshire, I was made aware of a study that asked children between the ages of 12-17 in every State the following: ‘Are there any negative effects caused by smoking marijuana?’ Of all 50 states, New Hampshire was No. 1 for the response of ‘no effect.’ Until we step up our educational and preventive programs, bills such as this do harm to our unaware youth. In the past I’ve always supported these bills, but currently I see harm,” Long said.

Although the vote margin was solid, Gov. Chris Sununu expressed his doubts about the prudence of such a measure during the state’s ongoing “drug crisis.”

According to WMUR, Sununu issued the following statement:

“My administration has supported commonsense reforms to decriminalize marijuana use and expand availability of medical marijuana. The reality remains that New Hampshire is in the midst of a drug crisis, and now is not the time for recreational legalization.”

InDepthNH.org’s Roger Wood interviewed Matt Simon, the head of the Marijuana Policy Project, following the Jan. 9 vote.

Listen via SoundCloud below.

Kate Frey, Vice President of Advocacy at New Futures, was critical of the House’s vote, and released the following statement:

Kate Frey/New Futures

“At New Futures, we are disappointed in the House’s decision to commercialize marijuana in the Granite State, opening our door to Big Marijuana. Allowing commercialization in New Hampshire is bad for our communities and the overall public health of our state. It devalues our workforce and puts our youth at further risk.  We look forward to continuing to examine this issue through the study commission which will produce a thorough report on outcomes from other states that have legalized and commercialized marijuana.

“Until then, we will work with our colleagues and lawmakers to ensure that we keep New Hampshire’s health and safety in mind as the legislation works through the legislative process.”

New Futures is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that advocates, educates and collaborates to improve the health and wellness of all New Hampshire residents through policy change.

New Futures is self-described as a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that advocates, educates and collaborates to improve the health and wellness of all New Hampshire residents through policy change.