HB 639 would legalize recreational marijuana for adults over 21. Legalization is the right thing to do for New Hampshire and we need to get it done in 2023.

Next Thursday, the New Hampshire House can send a clear signal to their Senate colleagues and the Governor that it is time for New Hampshire to finally end its war on marijuana. HB 639, which is sponsored and co-sponsored by the Republican and Democrat leaders in the House, will be on the House floor to receive its final vote.  

HB 639, would:  

  • Allow adults (over age of 21) to possess up to four ounces of marijuana. 
  • Create state-licensed private retail sales.  
  • Preserve and integrate the medical marijuana program. 
  • Allow localities to regulate or ban marijuana businesses.  
  • Impose a 12.5% tax on final products sold to retailers and, after administrative costs, allocate this revenue to the education trust fund, to provide property tax relief (50%); unfunded pension liabilities (30%); a new Substance Abuse Prevention and Recovery Fund (10%); children’s behavioral health services (5%); and training first responders to address detect impaired driving and respond to drug overdoses (5%). 

While HB 639 is far from perfect – for example, it does not ensure that people with previous marijuana convictions can have their records cleared, does not raise as much revenue as neighboring states, and does not ensure that communities that have been most harmed by the policing or marijuana see the largest share of marijuana revenue – it represents a huge step forward for racial justice and harm reduction. We urge all legislators to support it as is.  

Here's why.  

Sold to the public in the name of public safety, New Hampshire’s marijuana possession laws needlessly ensnare well over a thousand people -- disproportionately Black people -- in its criminal justice system every year. And, while Granite Staters may be less likely to go to jail for marijuana possession, each of these arrests can carry significant collateral harms, including negatively impacting people’s access to employment, housing, and child custody, among others. These collateral harms can last for decades, even after someone has served their time or paid any required fines. HB 639 would stop this cycle of harm from continuing the day it is signed. This is a big deal and cannot wait. 

While next week’s hopefully overwhelmingly positive vote will be a major step forward, we still have a long way to go before New Hampshire’s war on marijuana is finally over. And, this path will continue to be filled with misinformation and fear-based rhetoric, including the debunked rhetoric that marijuana legalization leads to increased youth use, crime, traffic fatalities, and is partially responsible for the opioid epidemic.  

We just need to keep reminding our legislators that they have the benefit of years of data from legalization states to distinguish myth from reality. For example:  

  • Multiple studies have found no increase in youth use in states that have legalized marijuana. (See, e.g. here and here).  
  • Legalization has also not substantially affected crime rates. (See, e.g. here and here). 
  • According to a multi-year study of Colorado and Washington, legalization of marijuana may have improved crime clearance rates. 
  • Marijuana legalization has had “little or no effect” on traffic accidents and fatalities. (See also, e.g. here and here). 
  • Evidence suggests that marijuana legalization is connected to a reduction in opioid related deaths. (See, e.g. here and here). 

If you support this legislation, please contact your legislators today and demand that they pass HB 639. Remind them that our war on marijuana is enforced with a staggering racial bias, does not make us safe, wastes taxpayer dollars, and ruins lives.