New Hampshire will likely be the last state in New England to reform its laws to allow adult-use cannabis.
That’s because a pair of House-passed bills were voted down in the Senate on April 28: one to legalize an adult-use market, and the other to permit possession and home grows.
With Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont already joining the adult-use green wave, Rhode Island and New Hampshire are the only states in New England that have yet to fully legalize cannabis. But Rhode Island remains poised to pass adult-use legislation with its bicameral Legislature on the same page and two months left in its legislative session.
In New Hampshire, adults 21 and older would have been allowed to possess up to three-fourths of an ounce of cannabis, 5 grams of hashish or 300 milligrams of infused edibles under House Bill 629. In addition, adults would have been allowed to home cultivate up to six cannabis plants. But the legislation, sponsored by Rep. Carol McGuire, R-Epsom, would not have allowed for the commercial sale of cannabis.
While the bill gained broad support in the New Hampshire House, where it passed, 241-113, earlier this year, it was defeated by a 15-9 vote Thursday in the Senate.
The upper chamber’s opposition to a cannabis reform effort is not something new, New Hampshire Public Radio reported.
“This is not a harmless substance,” Sen. Bob Giuda, R-Warren, said during floor debate on Thursday. “Legalizing this does no good for any segment of our population.”
Giuda was joined by others who voted against the bill in their belief that cannabis legalization could lead to increased youth use and greater risks of impaired driving.
The opposition comes despite 74% of New Hampshire residents supporting cannabis legalization while only 15% are opposed, according to a February 2022 The Granite State Poll survey conducted in association with the University of New Hampshire.
Earlier in the session on Thursday, the Senate also rejected House Bill 1598 in a voice vote. Sponsored by Rep. Daryl Abbas, R-Salem, H.B. 1598 aimed to provide state-run liquor stores exclusivity on selling adult-use cannabis flower (but not other products with THC).
That legislation was voted down, 5-0, by the Senate Ways and Means Committee earlier this month but still landed on the House floor, where the full body agreed with committee.
That legislation also would have authorized the New Hampshire Liquor Commission to regulate and oversee the cultivation, manufacturing, testing and sale of adult-use cannabis.
With the Senate rejections, cannabis possession of up to three-fourths of an ounce remains a civil violation punishable by a maximum fine of $100, while possessing more than that amount is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year of incarceration and a $350 max fine, according to NORML.