Yesterday, the New Hampshire Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted 3-2 to reject a bill that would allow home cultivation of up to two mature cannabis plants and 12 seedlings by registered patients and caregivers. Instead of listening to the numerous patients who testified at the public hearing, the committee recommended that HB 1476 be sent to “interim study,” which would effectively kill it for the year. But there’s still hope. Next, the bill is expected to receive a vote in the full Senate sometime in the next few weeks. Gov. Chris Sununu has not expressed a public position on the bill.
This bill is critically important because many patients are unable to afford the products that are available at dispensaries, which are not covered by health insurance. For some patients, home cultivation is simply the best, most affordable option. There is no need for further study before allowing limited home cultivation by registered patients and caregivers, especially now that it is becoming clear that access to cannabis is a key to addressing the opiate crisis.
For the first time in its history, the New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee has voted to approve a marijuana decriminalization bill. HB 640 was amended and passed by the committee in a 3-2 vote today. A vote by the full Senate is expected on Thursday, May 11. For a summary of the bill, as amended, click here.
The House overwhelmingly approved HB 640 in February in a 318-36 vote, and it has approved similar bills eight times since 2008. The Senate Judiciary Committee vote marks the first time such a bill has been approved by a Senate committee. Gov. Chris Sununu has consistently said he supports decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana and is expected to sign the bill if it is approved by the full Senate.
MPP released the following statement from New England Policy Director Matt Simon in a press release:
“This is a big step toward a more sensible marijuana policy in New Hampshire,” said Matt Simon, the Manchester-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “It will allow police and the courts to spend their time addressing serious crimes instead of wasting it on pointless arrests and criminal prosecutions for marijuana possession.”
“The current penalties for marijuana possession in New Hampshire are causing more harm to consumers and the community than marijuana itself,” Simon said. “Every other state in New England has already stopped criminalizing people for simple marijuana possession. Granite Staters are ready to do the same.”
HB 640, which was originally introduced in the House by Rep. Renny Cushing and a bipartisan group of co-sponsors, would remove the threat of arrest and jail time for simple marijuana possession. As amended by the Senate, the penalty for possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana would be reduced from a criminal misdemeanor, which is currently punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000, to a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine for a first or second offense and a $300 fine for a third offense within three years of the first offense. A fourth offense within three years of the first offense could be charged as a class B misdemeanor without arrest or the possibility of jail time.
In other great news, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted unanimously to approve HB 160, which would make post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) a qualifying condition for the medical cannabis program and make other positive changes to the law.
Slowly but surely, the New Hampshire Senate appears to be evolving in support of marijuana policy reforms. After hearing compelling testimony from patients and medical providers, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted to pass two important bills that would improve the therapeutic cannabis program: HB 157, which would allow patients to qualify if they suffer from moderate to severe chronic pain, passed 4-1, and HB 160, which would add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition, passed 5-0.
Unfortunately, the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police persuaded Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley to offer a terrible amendment to the Senate Judiciary Committee on HB 640, the decriminalization bill. You can read more about that here.
Committees also heard testimony on HB 472, which would allow qualifying patients and caregivers to cultivate a limited supply of cannabis, and HB 215, which would create a study commission to consider legalization for adult use, though no action was taken on those bills.
Rhode Island Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Josh Miller and House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Edith Ajello held a press conference today to announce that they will introduce a bill to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol. The founder of Brown University’s Alcohol & Addiction Studies Center, a former Providence police officer, and other opinion leaders joined them to call for this more sensible approach.
The Marijuana Regulation, Control, and Taxation Act is similar to the laws in Colorado and Washington. The proposal would allow individuals 21 and older to possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana. It also directs the Department of Revenue to license and regulate marijuana producers and 10 retail marijuana stores. This sensible approach to marijuana would create new industries with new jobs and raise needed revenue for the state. It would also allow law enforcement focus on more serious crimes.
MPP and Regulate Rhode Island are working hard to ensure that this is the year Rhode Island ends its marijuana prohibition, but we need your help. If you are a Rhode Island resident, email your lawmakers and ask them to support this important legislation and then ask your friends and family in the Ocean State to do the same.
Finally, if you have experienced first-hand how problematic marijuana prohibition is, take a few moments to tell us your story.