The new wave of legalization of cannabis is taking a huge turn as more states are making the switch from prohibition to decriminalization. The days where everyone was against the use of cannabis seem to be long gone as most states are opening up their border to legal recreational and medicinal marijuana markets. This growth continues despite the resolute stance of the federal government to classify cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic drug thereby making it illegal. Nonetheless, whether the FDA will change this stance, only time will tell.
The next state that might be making the move to join the host of states with legal cannabis markets in New Hampshire as the lawmakers of the state seek to put legalization questions to voters. A better look into the history of cannabis reform moves in New Hampshire and the prevalent practices of neighboring States like Maine will help paint a good picture of what is applicable in the purple state. There is still a long way to go before legalization can be effected in the state but it seems the rights steps are already being put in place.
The Office of Legislative Services received requests from State Reps. Joshua Adjutant(D), Renny Cushing(D), and Andrew Prout(R) put questions on constitutional amendment of adult use of cannabis on the ballot for 2022. This move though monumental still needs the backing of 60 percent of both houses of the legislature to get it on the ballots for 2022 but it is the right step in the right direction. The Republican-controlled Senate of New Hampshire is not new to legalization bills for cannabis as a bill had recently just died on its floors during the 2021 session. However, this new approach seeks to put the power in the hands of the electorates and 67% of voters is all that it will take to facilitate these amendments.
The proposed amendments
The first of these amendments by Reps Joshua Adjutant wishes to remove laws prohibiting the use, sale, or cultivation of cannabis for persons over 18 years. The second amendment by Reps Renny Cushing is a proposal to give adults the right to possess cannabis for personal consumption. Reps. Andrew Prout's proposal is also quite similar as it seeks to give all adults the right to possess, use, and cultivate cannabis based on regulation by the legislature.
These amendments are not entirely new to New Hampshire voters nor are they new in the United States. They make the bedrock for the open markets in many states where recreational and medical marijuana use is legalized. The move for the legalization questions to be put to voters is largely based on the believed acceptance from the public. According to a poll conducted by Gallup in 2020, 68 percent of Americans are in support of the full legalization of cannabis. Similar polls taken in New Hampshire show a staggering 75 percent acceptance for legalization which is more than the 67 percent needed in the polls to effect the changes.
The New Hampshire House is bound to have a busy period before it concerning cannabis as there are two cannabis legalization bills before it for voting. After the bills were retained in committee, the next step is to vote on it by mid-November. With the polls coming fast by 2022, it’s obvious that talks on cannabis will be the central focus of the House for quite some time. Pressure has been mounting on the house for quite some time concerning adult-use legislation in the state and this might just be the time when it gets done.
Cannabis markets around New Hampshire
One of the major factors pushing the drive for the legalization of cannabis in New Hampshire is the legalization in neighboring States. Maine as a state has open markets for recreational and medical marijuana which has reflected in immense revenues for the state. The state recorded a staggering $9.4 million worth of transactions in July after 10 months of the open season and the numbers are bound to keep soaring. Maine also has a very welcoming set of laws as no matter what state you are from, you can purchase marijuana in Maine if you are 21 and older and possess a valid means of identification.
This reality is bound to affect people of New Hampshire who have only had to make do with medical marijuana and decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis since July 2017. Home cultivation is still very much outlawed in New Hampshire which makes the decriminalization far from what is desirable and warranted the move for amendments. The reality in New Hampshire is that possession of as low as three-quarters of an ounce is regarded as a violation with a tenable fine of $100. Possession of over three-quarters of an ounce on the other hand can warrant jail time of one year and a fine of $350.
New Hampshire is not the only state hoping to correct some issues with cannabis legalization at the polls as the same is already taking place in Maryland too. The lawmakers in Maryland are already making moves to have a marijuana legislation referendum on the 2022 ballot. Unfortunately, one of the major stumbling blocks to cannabis reforms in New Hampshire is the stance of Governor Chris Sununu. He is openly opposed to adult-use legislation but advocates are taking solace in the fact that his legislative arm is taking center stage to bring the decision to the electorates.
New Hampshire is making considerable moves concerning medical marijuana and all that is left is to complement it with adult-use legislation. The governor has signed insomnia, autism spectrum, and opioid use disorder as conditions for the state’s medical-marijuana program. All that is left now is to properly incorporate adult-use legislation to open up the people of New Hampshire to the full benefits of the natural herb. Only time will tell whether the people of New Hampshire will be given the chance to lend their voice to this issue but if they are allowed to, you can be sure what the majority will say.