In early June, the Senate blocked a widely supported bill that would have removed criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. HB 618, which the House approved 297-67 in March, would have made possession of up to one-half ounce of marijuana a civil violation punishable by a fine of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and $500 for a third or subsequent offense. Under current state law, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.
New Hampshire is the only state in New England that treats simple marijuana possession as a criminal offense with the potential for jail time.
The annual WMUR Granite State Poll released Wednesday by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center shows a growing majority of New Hampshire adults support making marijuana legal and regulating it like alcohol.
The survey found 55% percent support making possession of small amounts of marijuana legal in New Hampshire — up from 53% in 2013 — and 67% approve of marijuana being sold in licensed retail outlets and taxed at levels similar to alcohol if marijuana possession becomes legal.
The poll also found that three out of five New Hampshire adults (61%) support House Bill 1625, a measure approved by the State House of Representatives and now being considered by the Senate that would reduce the penalty for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana to a $100 civil fine. Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000. New Hampshire is the only state in New England that treats simple marijuana possession as a criminal offense with the potential for jail time.
The poll of 510 randomly selected New Hampshire adults was conducted March 24-April 1 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3%. The entire poll is available at http://cola.unh.edu/survey-center/most-granite-staters-support-changes-states-marijuana-laws-4914.
The New Hampshire House Ways and Means Committee voted to amend HB 492, which would make marijuana legal and regulate it like alcohol, in order to simplify the tax structure and regulatory language. The committee then voted 14-5 to recommend that the House not pass the bill, which would also allow people 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. The House is not bound by this recommendation, and will vote on whether the bill should progress to the Senate soon.
The committee’s amended bill taxes and regulates marijuana by imposing a standardized $60 per ounce tax on growers. Advocates claim the tax will generate approximately $25 to $30 million annually.
MPP’s Matt Simon commented that, “Even with a negative recommendation, this thoughtful amendment will make it much more likely that the bill will receive continued support from the rest of the Legislature. We are optimistic that New Hampshire lawmakers will recognize that their constituents do not want to see adults arrested for using a substance that is safer than alcohol.”
When the bill returns to the House, it will have a battle with its new amendments, especially since it passed the House with a 170-162 vote on January 15. Sixty percent of New Hampshire adults support HB 492, according to a WMUR Granite State Poll released in October by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. Just 36% said they are opposed. The entire poll is available at: http://cola.unh.edu/sites/cola.unh.edu/files/research_publications/gsp2013_fall_gastaxpot102513.pdf.
The New Hampshire House made history last Wednesday, January 15, when it became the first state legislative chamber in the U.S. to approve a bill that would legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adult use. Next, the revenue sections of HB 492 will be considered by the House Ways and Means Committee. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t begin reaching out to New Hampshire state senators, who will begin considering this bill in April if it passes the House a second time.
If you live in New Hampshire, please email your senator today and ask him or her to support HB 492!
Unfortunately, Gov. Maggie Hassan has said she would veto the bill, claiming that “it’s the wrong message to send to young people.” However, it is clear that your calls to her office are making an impact. WMUR has reported that Gov. Hassan is being strongly pressured to change her position.
While public opinion is rising in support of ending marijuana prohibition and politicians are starting to step up on the issue, it seems that some lawmakers are still way behind the curve.
The New Hampshire House of Representatives Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted 11-7 against recommending the passage of HB492, a bill to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol, despite a new poll showing strong public support for the measure.
According to a new WMUR Granite State Poll released October 25 by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, 60% of New Hampshire adults support HB492. Just 36% said they are opposed. The poll of 603 randomly selected New Hampshire adults was conducted October 1-7 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4%. The entire poll is available at here.
"Marijuana prohibition has been just as big of a failure as alcohol prohibition," said Matt Simon, a New Hampshire-based legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. "New Hampshire voters are clearly ready for a more sensible approach. It appears some legislators are still less evolved than their constituents on this issue."
Support for ending marijuana prohibition in New Hampshire reflects growing public support nationwide. A Gallup poll released earlier this month found a record-high 58% of Americans now support making marijuana legal.