Just when it appeared that the fight for cannabis legalization in New Hampshire was over for the year, legislators resurrected a failed legal home grow bill in the form of an amendment attached to a Senate bill on April 4.
“The floor amendment before you, you may recognize because it’s a bill that you’ve already passed,” said state Rep. Terry Roy, who introduced the amendment to SB 299, which would clarify penalties for those who unlawfully escape custody. “We passed this bill by a 2-1 majority and sent it to the other body where it was apparently not given good consideration.”
Aside from penalties for escaping prison, SB 299 will also now legalize the possession of up to three quarter-ounces of flower and the ability to grow up to three mature and three immature plants at home at one time.
“We are bold people when we think that we are representing the true will of the people,” said state Rep. Tim Egan, who also chairs the state Democrats’s Cannabis Caucus. “Almost eighty percent of the people in New Hampshire want adult use cannabis, right? They want legalization. For us to ignore eighty percent of the people in New Hampshire is preposterous.”
About 74% of voters in New Hampshire support the legalization of adult use cannabis, according to a poll released by the University of New Hampshire in February this year.
Egan said that he hopes that pairing legalization with a bill covering prison escapes would make it more appealing to the Senate.
“Toughening sentences on people that escaped prison is something nobody really says ‘no’ to,” said Egan. “If you’re in prison for murder, you shouldn’t get a slap on the wrist if you escape. We took a bill that we know that everyone could agree with and we said let’s add this to it because no one’s going to disagree with the overall aspect of the bill.”
Since the beginning of the year, several bills involving cannabis failed to pass the Senate, including three competing efforts to send legalization to the voters by way of state constitutional amendment.
The previous state-run dispensary bill, HB 1598, narrowly passed the state House amid concerns from both opponents to legalization and advocates who worried that the state-run model would undercut the state’s medical cannabis program. The Senate’s Ways and Means Committee then killed the bill in a unanimous 5-0 vote.
“I feel like this term, all of us on both sides have put a lot of work into bills. We convinced a majority of 400 people to pass a bill only to have it die for no reason,” he said. “Frankly if you’re like me and you’re tired of hearing about cannabis bills, let’s send this one more time and be done with it.”
The amended bill, which is now known as “an act relative to the penalty for escape and relative to home cultivation of cannabis plants and the possession of certain cannabis-infused products,” easily passed the House in a voice vote.
With the House vote, the Senate is left with a few options. It can decide to concur with the amendment and it passes. It can also decide to take no action and the bill dies.
The third option, which Egan said he is anticipating, would have the Senate call for a Committee of Conference where both the House and Senate would select committee members to hash out a compromise bill.
“We think in Committee of Conference, we can adjust the bill’s language so that we can get enough senators to support it,” he said.