Just five days after the Trump administration’s attempts to revoke the federal guidelines protecting state cannabis laws, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted on the legalization of marijuana on Tuesday.
The bill will now move to the state Senate and includes the decriminalization of the possession of cannabis for people over 21. Adults will be able to legally own up to three-quarters of an ounce of cannabis and will be allowed to grow up to three mature marijuana plants at home. However, the bill does not allow for the establishment of retail sales locations.
This mentality is similar to the process that is being followed in the neighboring state of Vermont, where the House passed legalization measures on Thursday, the very same day U.S. attorney Jeff Sessions rescinded the Obama-era cannabis guidelines. Vermont’s Senate has previously approved similar bills and is expected to give the final approval on Wednesday. Governor Phil Scott (R), has already reassured his constituents that he will sign the bill into law.
These moves add up to mounting criticism regarding the Trump administration’s anti-legalization attempts. The movement has also been reprimanded by many members of Congress, coming from both parties.
The bill voted by the New Hampshire House of Representatives was an amendment of a previous bill that included taxation and regulation options for marijuana sales. However, this legislation was defeated in November. The opposition claimed that such a move would be premature, especially during the early stages of a legislative study examining how legalized marijuana commerce would work in the state.
The bill voted on Tuesday was essentially a scaled-back version of the original bill, legalizing only possession and limited cultivation. The vote on the annulment of the bill’s rejection was 183 to 162, while the modified legislation was approved by 207 to 139.
Despite the expectations of the bill advocates, the bill was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee. Supporters of the legislation must now get approval from the panel to hear the bill, which is not certain since it no longer contains provisions about commerce and taxes. If the committee opts to hear the bill, another House floor vote would be needed before being sent to the next chamber.
This is not the first time New Hampshire voted on the decriminalization of small amounts of cannabis. In fact, they have done so a number of times, only to see their attempts defeated in the other chamber. So, the bill will have to navigate rough waters on its way to the Senate, where past marijuana bills have gone to die.
Newly elected Governor Chris Sununu (R), gave new hope to the supporters of the bill, who managed to pass the bill through both chambers. Now, advocates of legalization want to consolidate their victory by removing fines for possession of marijuana and legalizing home grows.
However, Gov. Sununu appears to be against the proposal:
"Are you kidding?" he said. "We're in the middle of one of the biggest drug crises the state has ever seen. To go to a full recreational marijuana when other states that are seeing all the problems it has in other states and seeing the issues it's bearing, it's definitely not something that I'm supportive of right now."
Former Portsmouth Mayor and a contender for the position of governor this year criticised Sununu’s comments, calling them "deeply disappointing."
"When I am Governor in 2019, I will advocate for the legalization, regulation and taxation of cannabis for adult recreational use," he said in a statement. "Doing so will lower costs for incarceration, courts and law enforcement."
“Despite the best attempts by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Justice to intimidate state governments, the recent votes in Vermont and New Hampshire demonstrate that legislators are ignoring this bluster and are standing up for the will of the people,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri, “An overwhelming majority of Americans want to see marijuana legalized and their elected officials are smartly siding with this broad public opinion and sensible policy direction over the Reefer Madness being spouted by Attorney General Sessions.”