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New Hampshire Legislature Takes One Step ‘Sideways’ On Marijuana Penalties


new hampshire medical marijuanaI received the following disappointing news out of New Hampshire:

The prohibitionists in the New Hampshire Senate, led by gubernatorial candidate Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sharon Carson (R-Londonderry), succeeded yesterday in preventing any meaningful progress on decriminalization in 2016. The committee of conference on SB 498 removed House changes that would have decriminalized a quarter-ounce of marijuana. As was the case in the original Senate bill, the conference committee’s report would instead reclassify the penalty for possessing one ounce or less of marijuana from a class A misdemeanor to an unspecified misdemeanor.

Union Leader reporter Garry Rayno accurately described this as a “sideways” step for marijuana policy reform. Police and courts will continue to waste time on low-level marijuana possession cases, and people who are caught with marijuana will continue being dragged through the criminal justice system. The small change made by SB 498 may end up having a small positive effect on marijuana policy, or it may have no practical effect at all.

On the bright side, all 24 Senate seats and the governor’s office will be up for grabs in November. Five senators who opposed decriminalization have already announced that they are not running for re-election, and with polls now showing that Granite Staters support legalization by a more than two to one margin and that legalization is more popular than any New Hampshire politician, we know we will have many opportunities to improve our position heading into this year’s election and the 2017 session.

Please share this message with your family and friends.


Matt Simon
New England Political Director
Marijuana Policy Project


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Johnny Green


  1. saynotohypocrisy on

    I hate that ‘wrong message’ crap. It’s cannabis prohibition that sends creepy messages to kids. It sends the message that killer alcohol is safer than cannabis when the reality is it’s far more dangerous. The other message it sends is the cynical message that justice is just a game in Amerika, fairness has nothing to do it with it, and the sooner kids know and accept it, the better they’ll fit in in Amerika.

  2. William Laukaitis on

    I don’t even want to see her in as US Senate. I also don’t understand when Mags is so against it. She feels it sends the “Wrong Message” to our youth. I asked Hosmer why he voted against the HB 1631 and he stated it sends the “wrong message”. I asked him what that message was and I am still waiting for a reply (29 days as of today)I wonder what is in it for the politicians?

  3. While this is a disappointment for New Hampshire this year, it presents a unique opportunity. With the current governor, Maggie Hassan, making a bid for US Senate, there are three Democrats squaring off for the governor’s race versus Jeanie Forrester, the Republican opposed to cannabis reform. Given that 62% of NH voters favor legalization, which is indeed higher than the approval ratings for any politician in the poll linked in the article, any of those Democrats could easily grab the brass ring by endorsing cannabis legalization as an official part of their platform.

    Kelly Ayotte is the Republican Senator running for re-election this year against Maggie Hassan. Kelly Ayotte was swept into office in 2010 by the rise of the Tea Party. The poll mentioned in the article puts Senator Ayotte a full 21 points beneath cannabis legalization (41%), while Maggie Hassan’s approval rating is 49%, 13 points beneath cannabis legalization. The current governor could propel herself into the Senate by simply endorsing cannabis legalization in the Granite State. If she did that, Maggie Hassan would defeat Kelly Ayotte in a walk and we’d have another Senator in our corner pushing for change at the federal level.

    Should the Democrat candidate for governor follow suit, endorse cannabis, and *win*, NH would have a much better chance at repealing prohibition. The 2017 delegation would start the year with a clear mandate from the voters to change the law. Whether or not Democrats in NH are smart enough to embrace cannabis reform as an issue is “iffy” given their historic reluctance as a party to commit. The recent polling sets the stage. 62% is nothing to sneeze at. At least four or five more states will repeal prohibition, this year, with more to follow in quick succession. NH politicians like Jeanie Forrester are truly brainless if they don’t feel this change in the wind and act on it.

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