The New Hampshire House of Representatives approved a bill on Thursday that would eliminate criminal and civil penalties for possessing and growing small amounts of pot. The legislation, House Bill 1648, was sponsored by Republican Rep. Carol McGuire and a bipartisan group of seven cosponsors. The bill was approved by House lawmakers with a vote of 236 to 112 and will now head to the state Senate for consideration.
Under the measure, adults 21 and older would be permitted to possess up to three-quarters of an ounce of cannabis, five grams of hashish, and marijuana-infused products containing up to 300 milligrams of THC. Adults would also be able to gift the same amounts of cannabis products and up to three immature marijuana plants to another adult. Penalties for cannabis offenses committed by minors would remain unchanged.
The bill would also allow adults to cultivate up to six cannabis plants at home in a secure location not visible to the public. Home growers would also be permitted to possess and process the cannabis produced by their plants, but only at the same location. House Bill 1648 also eliminates prohibitions against cannabis paraphernalia and accessories, allowing adults to possess and make such items and sell them to other adults.
Consuming cannabis in public by adults would still be illegal and carry a fine of up to $100. Cultivation violations, such as maintaining a cannabis garden in public view, would be punishable by a fine of up to $750. Volatile extraction processes would not be legal and would be subject to prosecution as a Class A misdemeanor.
Under current New Hampshire law, possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce of weed is punishable by a $100 civil fine, with the fine increasing for third and subsequent offenses. Cannabis cultivation typically results in up to one year in jail.
Public Opinion Favors Legalization
Two consecutive polls published by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center found that more than two-thirds of the state’s residents support the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Matt Simon, the New England political director for cannabis policy reform group the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement that it’s time for politicians to heed the will of the people.
“Granite Staters overwhelmingly support making cannabis legal for adults’ use, and it’s encouraging to see that a strong majority of the House agrees. Now it’s time for Governor Chris Sununu and the Senate to recognize that New Hampshire should not be an island of prohibition,” Simon said. “Cannabis is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and there is no good reason for the state to continue punishing adults who choose the safer substance.”
If House Bill 1648 is also approved by the state Senate, it will still have to be approved by New Hampshire’s Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, which doesn’t seem likely. Sununu has previously said that he would “absolutely” veto any legalization bill, “regardless of what the language looks like.”
Last year, the state legislature approved a bill that would have allowed medical marijuana patients to grow up to three cannabis plants at home, but Sununu vetoed the measure. The House voted to override the veto, but a similar effort in the Senate was not successful.