Marijuana law reform is about to take a big step forward in New Hampshire. State lawmakers have introduced a bill that would allow for possession and home cultivation. But some twists and turns await the process of making that bill into law. Pro-cannabis lawmakers, however, have accomplished an important milestone. And as a result, in the coming weeks, the New Hampshire House will vote to legalize recreational weed.
New Hampshire House Will Vote To Legalize Recreational Weed
While news that lawmakers in the New Hampshire House will vote to legalize recreational weed is certainly exciting, it’s important not to get too far ahead of ourselves.
So what actually happened in New Hampshire?
Ever since Massachusetts and Maine legalized the recreational use of cannabis, concern has been rising that New Hampshire would become an “island of prohibition” in a sea of legal weed. Additionally, House lawmakers in Vermont, New Hampshire’s westerly neighbor, voted to make recreational use legal. But cannabis isn’t legal there just yet.
Nevertheless, Canada’s recreational use law is slated to take effect in July of this year, just about when Massachusetts will open its first retail shops. And with retail shops already open in Maine, and Vermont marching steadily toward legalization, New Hampshire is indeed positioned to be completely surrounded by legal marijuana.
And that’s what’s likely motivating House lawmakers in New Hampshire to get the ball rolling before the state commission tasked with studying the impact of legalization finishes its research.
House Committees Tried To Kill The Vote, Say State Isn’t Ready
The vote to legalize recreational cannabis in New Hampshire will come at the end of a series of votes to bring it to the floor in the first place.
Last year, New Hampshire appointed a commission to study the financial impact legal weed would have in the state. But the committee says it is still studying the issue and won’t be able to offer its recommendations until November 2018.
As a result, the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety committees wanted to kill the vote on legalization until the study of financial impacts concludes.
So first, the House voted 162-183 to defeat the attempt to block the vote on legalization, according to NHPR. Then, with a 2017-139 vote, the House voted to approve an amended version of the legalization bill. Now, the bill is on its way to the House Ways & Means Committee.
Importantly, that’s where the bill legalizing recreational weed died in New Hampshire last time. That was in 2015 when the New Hampshire House voted to legalize marijuana possession. That 2015 bill never made it out of the Ways & Means Committee.
If the committee approves the bill this time, however, it will head back to the House for a full vote. And that’s when the New Hampshire House will vote to legalize recreational weed.
If the House approves it, the bill will head to the state Senate. New Hampshire has already decriminalized possession.
Ultimately, legal weed still has a long way to go in New Hampshire. But the House’s decision to vote on the bill in advance of the commission’s report is a sign that lawmakers are eager and motivated to pass the law.
What The Bill Does And Doesn’t Legalize
The bill the New Hampshire House will vote on is an amended version of the bill. Here are the specifics, according to the Associated Press.
First, it legalizes possession up to three-quarters of an ounce of herbaceous cannabis. Second, it allows private, in-home cultivation of three mature plants and three immature plants.
Importantly, however, the bill does nothing to legalize cannabis commerce. In other words, buying and selling cannabis would still be illegal. And this also means that the bill would not put in place any kind of regulatory framework for selling and taxing marijuana. Lawmakers dropped those provisions out of the amended bill, likely in hopes of moving the bill forward more quickly.