The State of New Hampshire has legalized the medical use of marijuana since 2013. In that year, the New Hampshire House passed HB 573, which allowed qualifying patients to access medical marijuana to treat certain illnesses and medical conditions. HB 573 was codified into New Hampshire law as RSA 126-X. The recreational use of marijuana is still illegal under New Hampshire law. The possession of three-quarters of an ounce or less of marijuana without a medical card is considered a civil violation. A third offense is a misdemeanor and attracts a one-year prison sentence. HB 573 provides legal protections to patients, caregivers, and doctors engaged in the consumption or prescription of medical marijuana. It lists a range of eligible chronic or terminal diseases for medical marijuana. These include:
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Under the provisions of HB 573, four official Alternative Treatment Centers were established in New Hampshire. Alternative treatment center staff in New Hampshire are required by law to be 21 years or older and must not have prior felony convictions. Alternative treatment centers are essentially non-profit dispensaries whose role is to sell medical marijuana to New Hampshire medical marijuana cardholders. In New Hampshire, medical marijuana cards are otherwise known as medical marijuana registry identification cards and are issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Patients who wish to purchase medical marijuana must have a prescription from a licensed doctor with whom they have a doctor-patient relationship of at least three months. Qualifying patients are entitled to 2 ounces of medical marijuana every 10 days.
The commission established to study the legalization, regulation, and taxation of marijuana in New Hampshire published a preliminary report in December 2017. The report forecasts the estimated tax revenues that could accrue to the state in the event of marijuana legalization. The report suggested that New Hampshire could make $22.6 million annually if it taxed approximately 752,546 ounces of marijuana at the rate of $30 per ounce.
The 2017 report proposed ways by which marijuana could be taxed in New Hampshire. These include imposing a percentage on wholesale and retail sales, imposing a tax based on the marijuana market price, imposing a tax based on the weight of the marijuana being sold, and imposing a tax based on the tetrahydrocannabinol [THC] content of the marijuana.
Unlike in other states with medical marijuana programs, New Hampshire has a non-profit clause written into the original law establishing its Alternative Treatment Centers. The Department of Revenue Administration in New Hampshire estimated in 2018 that the state could earn marijuana revenues of up to $58 million from marijuana taxes if cannabis is legalized for recreational purposes.
A New Hampshire Drug Threat Assessment published by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2001 named marijuana as the drug most commonly seized by the state's Drug Task Force. By 2013, the state had enacted a law legalizing the use of medical marijuana, and this led to a situation in which qualifying patients could possess the substance without fear of prosecution.
After New Hampshire passed legislation in 2017 removing the mandatory prison sentence for possession of three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana, the State Police Forensic Laboratory reported reduced marijuana testing cases it was handling, from 3,600 in October 2017 to 1,600 in March 2018.
Data provided to the FBI by New Hampshire authorities under the National Incident-based Reporting System indicates that over a four-year period, between 2018 and 2021, there was a decline in reported marijuana crime in New Hampshire. In 2018, there were 2,851 arrests for marijuana-related offenses. In 2019, the number went down to 2,566, and in 2020, it declined further to 1,654 marijuana-related arrests. By 2021, the number of marijuana-related arrests for possession and sales had gone down to 1,243. This drop in New Hampshire marijuana crime statistics is part of a downward trend in the U.S.The FBI found that in 2020 there was a 36% reduction in marijuana arrests compared to 2019. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, in a June 2015 report that legalization of medical marijuana in states like New Hampshire could result in lower marijuana crime rates.
A 2022 report by the American Civil Liberties Union [ACLU] reveals there has been a 31% decrease in the overall crime rate in New Hampshire between 2012 and 2022. The ACLU argues that New Hampshire marijuana-related crime statistics are higher than would be the case if the state had decriminalized possession of higher amounts of non-medical marijuana.
Patients in New Hampshire who want to obtain medical marijuana cards under the Therapeutic Cannabis Program must be at least 18 years of age to qualify. A patient who is a minor must have an application filed on their behalf by a parent or legal guardian who will act as a caregiver. A written certification from a pediatrician must accompany an application for a medical marijuana card for a minor patient.
An applicant for a New Hampshire medical marijuana card must obtain a certification from a licensed doctor affirming that they suffer from an eligible illness or medical condition for therapeutic marijuana. After obtaining the written certification and a doctor's prescription, the applicant can fill out the form provided by the New Hampshire DHHS and make an email or in-person submission. A medical marijuana card application must be accompanied by proof that the applicant is a legal resident of New Hampshire.
The DHHS charges a mandatory $50 fee for medical marijuana card application, and this can be paid either by a valid check or a money order. Payment proof must also accompany the application form.
The DHHS takes up to three weeks to process an application for a New Hampshire medical marijuana card. Successful applicants are sent their cards by mail five days after approval.
With the passage of HB 573 in 2013, New Hampshire became the 19th state to legalize the medical use of marijuana. Marijuana possession and use is still a federal crime, according to the Controlled Substances Act. Even in New Hampshire, simple possession of marijuana for recreational use is still classified either as a civil violation, a misdemeanor, or a felony, depending on the amount involved. In 2017, Governor Chris Sununu signed HB 640 to reduce the penalties for marijuana possession. Prior to the passage of HB 640, the possession of three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana was a misdemeanor. Under the provisions of HB 640, the possession of a similar quantity of marijuana is considered a civil violation.
In 2019, the New Hampshire House passed HB 399. This bill provided for the expungement of the criminal records of individuals who had been convicted of possessing three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana, provided the offense occurred before September 16, 2017. Individuals who fell into this category could petition to have their records expunged.
In August 2021, HB 605 became law in New Hampshire. The approval of the bill expanded access to medical marijuana for residents of the state. Under HB 695, New Hampshire residents who are suffering from opioid use disorder can enroll in the medical marijuana program. Doctors were also authorized to prescribe medical marijuana to treat the effects of this disorder. In 2021, Governor Chris Sununu signed SB 162 into law. Among its provisions were clauses repealing the long-standing restrictions on access to Alternative Treatment Centers. Prior to 2021, qualifying patients in New Hampshire were required to designate particular ATCs in their applications and could not purchase medical marijuana from an ATC not listed in their registry information. Also, in 2021, HB 89 was signed into New Hampshire law to expand the list of qualifying illnesses and medical conditions to include severe insomnia and an autism spectrum disorder.
In 2022, the New Hampshire House passed HB 629. This bill was intended to allow adults 21 years and older to possess three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana, up to 5 grams of hashish, and as much as 300 mg of cannabis-infused products. The bill also sought to allow adults to cultivate as many as six cannabis plants at home in a location not visible from nearby houses. However, HB 629 was considered inexpedient to legislate and killed at the Senate.
Also, in 2022, the New Hampshire House passed HB 1598. This bill was intended to legalize the use and possession of marijuana for residents 21 years of age and over. Adults would be able to share their marijuana with other consenting adults, provided that the quantity was within legal limits. HB 1598 would also have allowed New Hampshire adults to sell marijuana derivatives to other adults. The bill classified the cultivation of marijuana at home as an offense. Vaping and the public consumption of marijuana were also considered punishable offenses under HB 1598. Opposition by members of the Senate ensured that this bill was not passed into law.
Cultivation of marijuana in the United States, the early 17th century.