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New Hampshire House Adds Qualifying Conditions, Backs Decriminalization

Published on March 8, 2017 · Last updated July 28, 2020

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday in support of decriminalizing small amounts of cannabis and expanding access to medical marijuana for people suffering from chronic pain or post-traumatic stress disorder.

The bills won support from more than 300 of the chamber’s 400 members. Members also backed a bill allowing people to grow their own medical marijuana by a smaller margin. They’ll now move to the Senate, which has typically taken a stricter approach to cannabis-related legislation. The bills were voted on during a marathon House session with lawmakers voting on education policy, election law, LGBT rights and dozens of others.

“Our tax dollars and law enforcement officials' time would be better spent addressing serious crimes.”

The decriminalization bill would remove criminal penalties for possessing one ounce or less of cannabis. New Hampshire is the only New England state without some form of decriminalization in place. Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk, and advocates praised the House’s action.

“We hope their colleagues in the Senate will agree that our tax dollars and law enforcement officials’ time would be better spent addressing serious crimes,” said Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project.

Roughly 2,000 New Hampshire residents have access to medical marijuana since the state’s first dispensary opened in 2016. State law lists specific conditions — such as cancer, glaucoma or HIV — that qualify someone for medical cannabis use. House members passed two bills that add chronic pain and PTSD to the list of conditions. The chamber rejected adding “opioid addiction” to a qualifier for medical marijuana.

Supporters argued cannabis may be a more successful and less addictive treatment than opioids for chronic pain patients.

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