Marijuana Legalization Bill Dies in New Hampshire House

Marijuana Legalization Bill Dies in New Hampshire House

CONCORD, NH — A bill that would have legalized marijuana in New Hampshire was defeated in the House without any debate on the proposed measure.

The Democrat controlled house voted 239-112 to kill House Bill 337, An Act Legalizing Marijuana and Cannabis, following a narrow recommendation from the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, who voted 12-8, not to pass the measure this session.

HB 337 would have entirely removed marijuana from the New Hampshire criminal code as of January 1, 2014.

If passed, the bill would have ended marijuana prohibition in New Hampshire, but would not have established a system of regulated cultivation, sales, or taxation in the state.

It would have also repealed prohibitions on paraphernalia related to marijuana use or cultivation.  Similar bills have been introduced in New Hampshire in the past, but none has received significant support from legislators.

The House vote to kill the bill did not fall along any specific party lines, with 135 Democrats and 104 Republicans voting to kill the bill, and 61 Democrats and 51 Republicans voting in favor.

The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, who heard testimony on the bill in February, was divided on the measure, narrowly recommending the full House vote against it on a 12-8 vote.

A second marijuana legalization bill, HB 492, which would allow individuals to cultivate up to six plants for personal use and setting up a framework for taxing and regulating the production and sale of marijuana, including licensed and regulated marijuana retail stores, has also been introduced to the legislature, but remains in the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee with no vote scheduled.

A similar bill, HB 1705, fell one vote short of being approved by the same committee  in 2012.

Two other marijuana bills, one which would decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, and another that would make New Hampshire the last New England state to legalize medical marijuana, will be considered by the House later this month.

HB 621, which would decriminalize possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. , is expected to be voted on by the full house later this month.

The bill would reduce the penalty for possessing less than one ounce of marijuana to a violation punishable by a fine of up to $100. Minors under 18 would also be subject to parental notification and a court-ordered drug awareness program. Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana in New Hampshire is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted, 12-6, to recommend the full House kill that bill.

A similar bill, HB 1526, passed the House in a 162-161 vote on  in March 2012, but it was unanimously rejected by the Senate. Previously, in 2010, the New Hampshire House passed HB 1653 (213-137), but it was rejected by the Senate following a veto threat by Gov. John Lynch.

A medical marijuana bill, House Bill 573, has not yet been scheduled for a floor vote by the full House, but has been overwhelmingly endorsed by the Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee, who recommended the full House pass the measure on a 14-1 vote earlier this month.

The bill would allow seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. Patients would be able to grow up to three mature marijuana plants in their homes or obtain marijuana through one of five non-profit, state-licensed alternative treatment centers.

Gov. Maggie Hassan has expressed support for passing medical marijuana legislation. A similar medical marijuana bill that passed with bipartisan support last session was vetoed by then-governor John Lynch.

New Hampshire is the only New England state that does not allow the medical use of marijuana.