Marijuana Legalization in New Hampshire

The New Hampshire House of Representatives passed House Bill 492, the legalization and regulation of marijuana, on January 16, 2014. This bill contained 3 major pieces.


I. Legalizes the personal use of up to one ounce of marijuana by persons 21 years of age or older.
II. Authorizes the licensing of marijuana wholesale, retail, cultivation, and testing facilities.
III. Imposes a tax on the sale of marijuana.

To understand this law, and other New Hampshire laws, I’ve broken down this article into bullet points.

How are laws passed in New Hampshire?

New Hampshire has two legislative bodies, the House and the Senate. Individuals or small groups of House members sponsor new bills and present them to the entire House for voting. If the bill gets enough votes to pass, it is then presented to the Senate. If the bill gets enough votes in the Senate, it will be presented to the Governor. If the Governor decides to sign the bill it will become a law.

So the marijuana legalization bill has passed the House?

Not exactly. When a bill involves the spending of money or generating tax revenue, it must be debated by a small group of House members in the Ways and Means Committee. Part of this bill involves a tax on the sale or marijuana, so it must be debated in committee. Once debate is finished it will be presented again to the entire House for a new vote. Because the bill already passed the house there is a decent chance it will pass again.

What are the chances that the bill passes the Senate?

Assuming that the bill even gets there, not that great. Democrats have a majority in the House while Republicans have a majority in the Senate. More Democrats than Republicans voted for the bill. While some Republicans voted yes, the majority voted no. Additionally, the Republican Senate defeated a decriminalization bill just last year. Last years bill merely made possession of small amounts of marijuana a violation-level offense ($200 fine). Given that this new bill goes far beyond last years bill, passage in the Senate is unlikely.

Assuming the bill passes the Senate, will Gov. Hassan sign the law?

Probably not. Gov. Hassan has already stated that she would veto the bill. If it is vetoed it will be sent back to the House. The bill would then need to win a two-thirds majority vote in both the House and Senate to overcome the Governor's veto. This is extremely unlikely.

So if the bill won’t pass, what's the point?

Marijuana legalization is a controversial issue to say the least. These types of bills, even when they fail, give lawmakers a better understanding of where their constituents stand on the issues. If a particular representative gets a lot of feedback, for or against passage, it may sway how that representative votes in the future.

So what are the chances marijuana becomes legal in New Hampshire?

Pretty good. Everyone will be watching Washington State and Colorado. If those states, who have legalized recreational marijuana, see an increase in tax revenue, it will be hard for New Hampshire, or any state, to say no. If they see a rise in social problems relating to marijuana, such as an increased teenage use, the chances of legalization in other states will be diminished. In the event that the current bill fails, it's likely that marijuana proponents will introduce a new, watered down bill in the next legislative session.

For or against, what can you do?

New Hampshire is a great state. Because we're so small and our legislature is so large, individuals can actually influence their local representatives. Whether you're for the legalization or marijuana, or against it, contact your state representative and let them know.

Here is a tool to find your New Hampshire state representative.

How did local House representatives vote?

Below is a list of Seacoast area representatives and how they voted on House Bill 492.



Portsmouth

NO - Laura C Pantelakos
YES - Rebecca Emerson-Brown
YES - Gerald W.R. Ward
NO - Brian Wazlaw
NO - Jacqueline A Cali-Pitts
YES - Joe W Scarlotto


Rye

NO - Thomas M Sherman


New Castle

NO - David A Borden


Greenland

NO - Pamela Z Tucker


North Hampton

YES - Michele S Peckham


To see a list of how each New Hampshire representative votes, see this list.


About the author

Attorney Ian Reardon is a Portsmouth NH Attorney. He practices divorce, family law, and business law.


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