Bipartisan House bill is supported by a broad, ideologically diverse coalition of organizations
CONCORD, N.H. - Backed by a broad coalition of civil rights and policy groups, cannabis industry professionals, and New Hampshire activists, the Republican and Democratic House leaders today previewed a widely-supported 2023 bill to legalize adult-use cannabis in the Granite State. The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Representative Jason Osborne (R-Auburn) and co-sponsored by Representative Matt Wilhelm, (D-Manchester), would allow adults who are over the age of 21 to possess and give away up to four ounces of cannabis outside of the home. The bill also includes automatic annulment of records for past marijuana possession offenses and for the ability for localities to regulate cannabis licenses in their area.
The broader coalition supporting this bill includes Americans for Prosperity - New Hampshire, The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire, New Hampshire Cannabis Association, Prime ATC, Hon. Timothy Egan, Hon. Joe Hannon, Attorney Paul Twomey, and the Marijuana Policy Project.
Polling from the University of New Hampshire has shown that the vast majority of Granite Staters, at 74% including the majority of Republicans and Democrats, support legalization of recreational marijuana for adults. Legalization bills have been introduced in recent years and passed in the state House, but have fallen short in the state Senate.
As New Hampshire has continued to enforce its current marijuana possession laws, there are significant disparities in enforcement and resources:
- Despite New Hampshire’s decriminalization of marijuana possession in 2017, 1,120 people in 2021 alone were unnecessarily brought into New Hampshire’s criminal justice system for marijuana possession.
- Unnecessary arrests place a burden on New Hampshire residents and the judicial system as well as negatively affect access to employment, housing, and child custody, among others, for the person arrested. These collateral harms can last for decades, even after someone has served their time or paid any required fines.
- New Hampshire’s war on marijuana is a waste of tax dollars. For each marijuana arrest, tax dollars pay for a judge, a clerk, law enforcement officers, prosecutor, and others to process the case.
- New Hampshire’s marijuana laws are enforced with a staggering racial bias. In 2020, Black people were 4.8 times more likely to be brought into New Hampshire’s criminal justice system than white people despite both groups using cannabis at roughly the same rate. In Manchester and Concord, this disparity is even higher, with Black people 13.9 and 5.8 times more likely, respectively.
Representative Jason Osborne said, "This proposal to legalize cannabis for adults in New Hampshire brings together diverse nonpartisan perspectives. This bill brings a solution to pay off our pension liability, reduce property taxes, provide additional resources for law enforcement, while restricting minors from accessing cannabis. The House has long stood united in finding a pathway to getting this done for Granite Staters. With any luck, the Senate will come around to supporting the will of the vast majority of New Hampshire citizens."
Representative Matt Wilhelm said, “It is long past time that New Hampshire stops wasting scarce tax dollars and valuable local and state policing resources by continuing a restriction that has failed for decades and needlessly ruined the lives of many young and poor Granite Staters. By legalizing cannabis, New Hampshire can stop squandering tax dollars and instead provide a significant source of new revenue to fund critical health and law enforcement programs while lowering local property taxes. New Hampshire remains the only state in New England that has failed to legalize recreational cannabis, while our neighbors benefit from increased revenue and their cannabis users benefit from safer testing and regulation of the product. Legalization of adult possession of small amounts of cannabis is the right thing to do for New Hampshire and we must get it done in 2023.”
Frank Knaack, Policy Director for the ACLU of New Hampshire, said, “Sold to the public in the name of public safety, New Hampshire’s marijuana laws needlessly ensnare over a thousand people -- disproportionately Black people -- in its criminal justice system every year. New Hampshire's war on marijuana does not make us safer, wastes taxpayer dollars, is enforced with a staggering racial bias, and ruins lives — it's time for it to end.”
Ross Connolly, AFP-NH Deputy State Director, said, “New Hampshire is an island of cannabis prohibition. The Granite State is the last remaining state in New England to not legalize cannabis for adults. Our coalition has taken lessons learned from surrounding states and created the best model for taxed, regulated, and legal retail cannabis that protects consumers and minors while out-competing our neighbors. All Granite Staters will benefit from the passage of this legislation. This legislature has an incredible opportunity to find common ground across party lines and support the will of Granite Staters.”
Daryl Eames, Founder of the NH Cannabis Association, said, "If we are to bring a legal, responsible adult use market to New Hampshire it should be an industry that has just the right amount of regulation and taxation and benefits the widest swath of NH residents possible. This bill does just that, expanding rooms & meals tax to include cannabis at 8.5%, by far the lowest tax in the country, and providing the framework that lets the great residents of our state compete. In addition, the tax revenue will pay for education, property tax relief, public pensions, substance abuse counseling, assistance for distressed farmers & veterans, affected communities, public safety agencies and includes flexible funds for municipalities that participate in the industry whose residents can decide how to direct those funds. This directly benefits current and future homeowners, current and future parents and students, rural and urban communities, our farmers & veterans and many other residents of our great state. These are just a few of the reasons why this is a great bill."
Matt Simon, Director of Public and Government Relations, Prime Alternative Treatment Centers of NH, said, “Granite Staters deserve a cannabis legalization policy that makes sense for New Hampshire and is based on lessons learned from other states. We enthusiastically support this thoughtful and comprehensive approach to cannabis policy, and we are encouraged to see that a broad coalition has unified behind the legislation.”
Hon. Tim Egan said, “NH is ready for adult use-cannabis. Logical bipartisan legislation that helps New Hampshire be competitive in the New England marketplace will help expand our economy, protect our tourism and respect the wishes of an overwhelming majority of Granite Staters.”
Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, said, “Marijuana prohibition has been just as disastrous a policy failure as alcohol prohibition was a century ago, but it has persisted far longer and inflicted far more harm. It is past time the Granite State join its neighbors and take a more modern approach to cannabis. This bipartisan coalition bill includes strong public health protections, annulment and sentencing review for past convictions, and provisions to ensure mom and pop businesses can succeed. We hope to see it become law this year.”