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New Bill Ensures Some Retroactive Drug War Justice for New Hampshire

Governor Chris Sununu signs that legislation, but vetoes another bill in order to expand medical access.

New Bill Ensures Some Retroactive Drug War Justice for New Hampshire
Roxana Gonzalez/ Shutterstock

Governor of New Hampshire Chris Sununu has played a key role in the crafting of the state’s medical cannabis legislation. On Friday, in the latest of a series of cannabis vetoes, he struck down a bill that would have eliminated a requirement that patients have at least a three month relationship with their marijuana provider. But on the same day, he did sign into effect HB 399, which will have positive repercussions for those with past cannabis convictions. 

The latter will make it possible for those with past offenses concerning quantities of up to three-quarters of an ounce to have their conviction annulled. The legislation will apply to those whose offenses happened before September 16, 2017, the date when the state enacted sweeping decriminalization measures (becoming the last New England state to do so) that did not enact retroactive measures for past victims of Drug War policing.

Such annulments, however, will not be automatic. Individuals will still need to petition the court to have the offense erased from their criminal record. Prosecutors will have 10 days after the petition to object to the crime’s annulment.

“[This legislation is] going to affect hundreds, if not thousands of people,” the bill’s sponsor, Representative Renny Cushing, told Vermont Public Radio. “This is a good step forward to repairing some of the collateral damage of the war on marijuana.”

“HB 399 will allow these Granite Staters to have their records annulled so they can move forward in life with a clean slate,” commented New England’s Marijuana Policy Project political director Matt Simon in a statement. “Governor Sununu should be applauded for signing this important bill into law.”

Last year a bill similar to HB 399 was proposed, but it was tabled by New Hampshire’s Republican-controlled state Senate. 

The state legalized medical marijuana back in 2013, when Governor Maggie Hassan signed HB 573 a.k.a. Use of Cannabis for Therapeutic Purposes into law, but has since been concerned with hammering out the logistics of its system. The state began taking applications for non-profit “alternative treatment centers” or ATCs in 2014. 

Currently, 7,000 registered patients and their caregivers must obtain their cannabis from one of the state’s four licensed ATCs. That could change soon; in May, the state Senate approved House Bill 364, which would let patients grow up to three mature cannabis plants, three immature plants, and possess 12 seedlings. That bill was passed to the legislature in a packet that contained the two bills considered by Governor Sununu on Friday. 

Governor Sununu has shown a general reluctance to allow for legislation that would open the industry to for-profit business. In June, he shot down Senate Bill 145, which would have let the state’s ATCs to operate on a for-profit basis. 

“Although I remain supportive of medical marijuana, this bill would represent too great of a step toward the dangerous path of industrial commercialization of the marijuana industry in New Hampshire,” he wrote upon vetoing SB 145. Legislators seem to share his reluctance to go full commercial. A recreational bill stalled out in the Senate at the end of May.

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