New Hampshire is the “Live Free or Die” state, the home of the Free State Project, so it’s no surprise that there’s a lot of sympathy for marijuana legalization.
On the other hand, the state has a tradition of fierce conservatism from the days of William Loeb and his allies. Polls show a majority of the population favors legalization. The House has made a number of attempts to roll back prohibition, only to see them killed in the Senate or vetoed by the governor.
The New Hampshire House of Representatives became the first state legislative body to pass a bill that would legalize marijuana, in January 2014. Governor Hassan declared she would veto the bill, after which it died in a second vote in the House. A bill for greatly reducing the penalties has passed the House in 2016, and as of this writing is in committee in the Senate. It would reduce the penalty for possession of half an ounce or less to a violation.
Currently medical marijuana is legal, but with strong restrictions. Only seriously ill people can qualify. Patients need a special ID card to buy it. Under the law, doctors don’t prescribe marijuana, but they need to certify the patient’s need in order to let them get a card. Doctors, possibly fearing for themselves, are often reluctant to grant approval. Health officials tried to block distributing any cards until dispensaries opened, figuring that if there were no eggs there would be no chickens, but a cancer patient successfully sued the state and got a card.
No one has yet managed to open a dispensary. The application process is complex, and bureaucrats are dragging their feet. In addition, dispensaries need to get local permission to open, and opponents have sometimes turned out in force at hearings. The mayor of Milford cited a non-existent regulation to try to stop a dispensary from opening.
In spite of the difficulties, several dispensaries are likely to open in the state in 2016. The long-term outlook is encouraging.
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