Three years after cannabis possession by adults in New Hampshire was first decriminalized, there’s another bipartisan house bill in play this session that will go even further. I recently reported here on HB 1648 when NH 2020 gubernatorial candidate “Nobody” and I went to testify at the house committee hearing for the bill. Of all the speakers at the hearing, only one person spoke against it. Not even the police bothered to send a speaker to speak against the bill – it was an amazing hearing.
Now, the votes are in from the full state house, and it has passed the house with a veto-proof margin – 236 to 112! Though it was veto-proof, it was just barely so, with just over 67% of those attending today voting in favor of it. In 2017, the state house voted nearly 90% in favor of the initial cannabis decrim bill.
HB 1648 is a really good cannabis decrim bill that improves on the one passed in 2017 that made possession of under 3/4ths of an ounce of flower and under 5 grams of concentrate a violation instead of a misdemeanor. If it passes this year, HB 1648 will eliminate any penalty for people over 21 possessing those amounts. It will no longer be something police can act on at all. The bill, significantly, also allows adults to grow their own cannabis at home.
The bill is not perfect, of course, as I pointed out during my testimony in the two-hour long hearing. It still treats people under 21 like children by retaining violation-level penalties for people between 18 and 21, and also penalizes people under 18 for possession by forcing them into the juvenile system. That’s not fair or right. Also, the limits on the amounts that would be legal to possess are too low. That said, it’s a major step in the right direction and does it without creating a taxing and regulatory structure. Also, please note my summary of the bill is based on its text as-introduced. It was passed with an amendment that is currently not available to read online.
Next, the bill heads to the NH senate and its sponsors already include one democrat and one republican state senator, so hopefully that bodes well for its chances. We know that the current republican governor, Chris Sununu signed the first cannabis decrim bill in 2017 but has opposed legalization. That he opposes legalization is actually a good thing however, as all of the legalization bills so far have included regulations and taxes on cannabis. People who want freedom support ending prohibition but should not support taxing and regulating cannabis. Cannabis should be free to grow, sell, and possess without any penalty and that includes having to beg permission from the state gang to offer it to others.
While the decriminalization bill doesn’t decrim sales of cannabis, it is still a big step away from reducing the harm done to adults by the insane war on drugs and allows people over 21 to possess it without fear of police assault. Hopefully the governor will support this continued decriminalization of this amazing plant. If not, hopefully the NH senate will also pass it with a veto-proof margin. Stay tuned here to Free Keene for the latest.