New Hampshire is tucked comfortably between three states with legal recreational cannabis: Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts. At present, cannabis in New Hampshire is only legal for medical users and decriminalized for recreational users who possess three-quarters of an ounce or less.
You may be able to fill in the blanks for how some cannabis users are getting their hands on weed in the Granite State. While crossing state lines with cannabis is a federal crime, it happens. And with decriminalized cannabis in New Hampshire but no way to legally purchase it, it’s no surprise some people drive to Massachusetts for cannabis. There’s no question that the state is missing out on opportunities to profit off of the legal industry. So what’s the holdup?
New Hampshire’s cannabis history
Back in 2014, New Hampshire made history when the house became the first legislative body in the country to vote for recreational marijuana legalization. It didn’t take long for the high hopes to fade out as a skeptical senate and oppositional governor led the House to change course and vote against the same bill.
Fast forward to 2021 and two legalization bills, one to regulate and tax cannabis and the other to legalize possession and limited cultivation, have been sitting in the queue. The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee has delayed a vote until 2022.
The vote may be delayed but it’s not reflective of public opinion. A 2021 survey found that 75% of New Hampshirites support legalization. The “island of prohibition” is bound to legalize cannabis. It’s just a question of when.
What the experts predict
With 2022 around the corner, anticipation for legal New Hampshire cannabis is growing.
“The next steps are in process as we speak, with legislators crafting a bill to be submitted in the upcoming legislative session. However, there is a lot of work to be done persuading our Senators to join us in the fight for legalization as the House has continued to pass legalization bills over the last few years,” the New Hampshire Cannabis Association (NHCA) told us in an email.
With over 70% of the state’s residents supporting legalization, the topic of legal cannabis transcends parties. Still, Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen has already made public her opposition to legalization. Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan has shared similar views in the past. But, as the NHCA mentioned, pressure is building. They see legalization coming to the state sooner rather than later.
The New Hampshire Cannabis Association is working with state representatives from all parties, as well as organizations, including Americans for Prosperity, to craft a bill.
Americans for Prosperity recognize the benefits legal recreational marijuana could provide to the state. The organization advocates for lower taxes and less governmental regulation and sees the impending legalization as a positive for the state.
“The question is not ‘if’ cannabis will be legalized for recreational adult use, but ‘when’ and ‘how.’ There will be multiple proposals in the legislature in 2022, including one to amend the state Constitution,” a spokesperson for Americans for Prosperity told us. “We have an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of our neighbors and create a system that out competes all states in our region by applying our New Hampshire Advantage philosophy to the cannabis industry.”
Will 2022 be the year of New Hampshire legalization?
New Hampshirites are pivoting their strategy in the push for legalization in response to previous bills getting killed by the Senate. The newest tactic? A constitutional amendment. Advocates are pushing for the state to declare cannabis possession a constitutional right.
An amendment like this requires three-fifths support in the House and Senate. If it can achieve this, the amendment will bypass the governor, a longtime opponent of marijuana legalization.
Some in opposition are calling the push an abuse of the constitution, whereas supporters say the right to possess cannabis is a matter of personal privacy, and therefore a valid part of the constitution.
“Talented and motivated legislators and community leaders from all sides are coming together to fight for the end of prohibition in the state. With upwards of 70% of NH residents wanting adult recreational legalization, the pressure is building on our legislative holdouts, especially with elections coming in 2022,” New Hampshire Cannabis Association told us.