New Hampshire Marijuana Laws

Key Points

  • Medical cannabis is legal in New Hampshire, but the state has yet to legalize recreational marijuana
  • The state prohibits marijuana cultivation for personal use. Registered qualifying cannabis patients can only access marijuana products legally by purchasing them at licensed Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs)
  • Only individuals aged 18 years or older with certain debilitating and terminal medical conditions and state-issued medical cannabis cards can legally access medical marijuana
  • Registered medical cannabis patients in New Hampshire may purchase and possess no more than 2 ounces of medical marijuana or medical cannabis products within a 10-day period
  • Out-of-state medical marijuana patients with valid medical cannabis cards may purchase up to 2 ounces of marijuana flowers in New Hampshire
  • The illegal possession, cultivation, sale, or use of marijuana in the state attracts several severe punishments

Is Marijuana Legal in New Hampshire?

Medical marijuana in New Hampshire is legal, while recreational cannabis is decriminalized but still illegal. The state is yet to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes because it considers it a restrictive, illegal substance. Besides, opponents of cannabis legalization in New Hampshire have consistently cited concerns over public safety as their reasons for opposing adult-use marijuana in the state.

New Hampshire legalized medical cannabis in 2013 after the passage of House Bill 537 (HB 537). Although restrictive, HB 537 established certain qualifying medical conditions that make a person/patient eligible for medical marijuana in New Hampshire. Besides being diagnosed with these qualifying conditions, a patient must exhibit severe symptoms to qualify for medical cannabis under HB 537. In 2017, New Hampshire decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis, a step that removed a jail sentence for possessing up to 3/4 of an ounce of marijuana. However, possessing over 3/4 of an ounce of marijuana is still a criminal offense, and anyone caught with cannabis more than three times within a three-year period risks criminal charges.

Can I Use Cannabis in New Hampshire?

Yes. However, a person can only use cannabis for medicinal purposes in New Hampshire. Cannabis is a plant with psychoactive properties that can be used for medicinal and recreational purposes. It contains over 100 active components known as cannabinoids, the most abundant being delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the major psychoactive component in cannabis that is responsible for intoxication and the reason cannabis has been historically illegal. People often abuse it to get "high," an act believed to instigate them to commit crimes. Although CBD is also psychoactive, it is non-intoxicating like THC and is believed to offer various health benefits. Over the years, people have called cannabis different names, including marijuana, pot, weed, ganja, and grass.

Under HB 537, persons diagnosed with the following debilitating and terminal medical conditions and showing severe symptoms can use medical marijuana in New Hampshire:

  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Glaucoma
  • Cancer
  • Crohn's disease
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Spinal cord disease or injury
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Hepatitis C (if the patient is currently receiving antiviral treatment)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Chronic pain
  • Autism
  • Nausea
  • Wasting syndrome

Although New Hampshire has decriminalized the possession of up to 3/4 of an ounce of cannabis, it prohibits the recreational use of cannabis. A person under 18 caught with marijuana in New Hampshire could be taken to juvenile court.

New Hampshire Marijuana Laws in 2024

In 2013, HB 537 legalized the use of medical marijuana in New Hampshire, although restrictive. The law specified certain qualifying medical conditions for patients to be eligible for medicinal cannabis. While HB 537 prohibits home-grown cannabis, it permits the sale of medical marijuana by dispensaries and possession (with limits) of medical cannabis. HB 537 also set the requirements for the state's medical marijuana cards. In 2021, Governor Sununu signed HB 89, which added two new medical conditions, moderate to severe insomnia and autism spectrum disorder to the list of qualifying medical conditions for the therapeutic use of marijuana.

The governor also signed HB 605 into law in 2021. This legislation included opioid use disorder in the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis use. The law also made provisions for out-of-state medical cannabis patients to legally purchase and possess marijuana in the state as long as they present their medical marijuana cards and only buy up to 2 ounces of cannabis flower. This provision of the law only went into effect in June 2023 when the Director of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services announced the commencement of medical marijuana reciprocity.

In the past, several bills have been introduced to legalize recreational marijuana in New Hampshire. Introduced in January 2021, HB 629 sought to permit the possession of certain cannabis-infused products and the home cultivation of up to six marijuana plants. However, the bill died in April 2022 at the Senate Judiciary Committee as it was considered inexpedient to legislate.

A bill to legalize the possession and use of recreational cannabis by adults 21 years and older in New Hampshire, HB 1598, was also introduced in January 2022. It aimed at establishing a state monopoly on cannabis sales but failed to pass at the Senate Judiciary Committee. Also, HB 1348, which sought to legalize the possession and home cultivation of marijuana by adults 21 years and over, was introduced in January 2022. However, the bill died at the table of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee in March 2022. While it would not establish a regulated market, HB 1348 would have removed penalties for possessing up to 5 grams of hashish, 1 ounce of cannabis, and six cannabis plants for persons at least 21 years old.

The 19-member commission set up to draft New Hampshire’s recreational marijuana legislation failed to reach a consensus and issue a recommendation in November 2023. This commission hoped to propose state-run dispensaries. Governor Chris Sununu also issued the members a last-minute demand to limit the total number of dispensaries to 15.

Following the commission’s failure to draft a recreational cannabis legislation, some New Hampshire lawmakers prefiled a dozen bills related to marijuana for the 2024 legislative session. These bills include legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis in the state (HB344 and HB544), annul prior marijuana-related convictions, and expand the state’s medical marijuana program including allowing home cultivation for patients and caregivers, raising their cannabis possession limits, and adding new qualifying conditions (HB1240 and HB1278).

How the Legal Sale of Cannabis in New Hampshire Happens

While recreational cannabis is still illegal in New Hampshire, House Bill 537 permits the sale of medicinal marijuana in the state. New Hampshire's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), through the Therapeutic Cannabis Program, oversees and regulates medical cannabis in the state. The Therapeutic Cannabis Program issues cannabis registry identification cards to eligible patients with qualifying medical conditions and medical marijuana caregivers. Per SB 162, registered patients and caregivers with these cards can buy therapeutic cannabis from any of New Hampshire's licensed Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs), otherwise known as dispensaries, chosen during registration.

In New Hampshire, registered medical marijuana patients can purchase and possess up to 2 ounces of medicinal cannabis or cannabis products, including hash and concentrates, within a 10-day period. Patients and caregivers must not possess more than 2 ounces (combined) at a time. It is illegal for a medical marijuana patient in New Hampshire to purchase marijuana paraphernalia. The state considers the possession or sale of paraphernalia a misdemeanor. The delivery of medical cannabis in New Hampshire is available, implying that patients or caregivers must purchase cannabis or cannabis products in person at their registered ATCs.

Penalties for Marijuana-related crimes in New Hampshire

New Hampshire decriminalized cannabis in 2017 and ceased to award a jail sentence for possessing small amounts (up to 3/4 ounces) of marijuana. The following are the various penalties for marijuana-related crimes in New Hampshire, depending on the type of offense:

Marijuana Possession

  • Possession of up to 3/4 ounces of marijuana by someone 18 years or older for a first and second offense is a civil violation with a maximum penalty of $100. For the third offense, within three years of the first offense, an individual may be fined up to $300. A fourth offense within three years of the first is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a jail sentence with an option of up to a $1,200 fine
  • Possession of over 3/4 ounces of marijuana is a misdemeanor that attracts a maximum of 12 months jail sentence and a maximum cash fine of $350 \ \ Marijuana Cultivation
  • In New Hampshire, marijuana cultivation offense is treated as cannabis sales and possession. Hence, marijuana cultivation offense attracts sales and possession penalties based on the weight of marijuana plants caught with an individual. \ \ Marijuana Sale or Possession with Intent to Distribute

The sale of marijuana in New Hampshire is considered a felony, and the penalties are listed below:

  • For a first offense, selling less than 1 ounce of cannabis attracts a maximum jail time of 3 years and a maximum fine of $25,000. A subsequent offense is punishable by a maximum of $50,000 fine and a maximum of six years jail sentence
  • The sale of between 1 ounce and 5 pounds of marijuana for a first offense is a felony punishable by a maximum of seven years of incarceration and a $100,000 maximum. An offender risks a maximum jail sentence of 15 years and a maximum of $200,000 fine for a subsequent offense
  • Selling 5 pounds or more of marijuana for a first offense is punishable by up to a $300,000 fine and a maximum jail time of 20 years. A subsequent offense attracts a maximum of 40 years of incarceration and up to a $500,000 fine
  • Anyone caught selling marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school zone in New Hampshire faces double marijuana sale penalties depending on the weight of the cannabis \ \ The Sale or Possession of Marijuana Paraphernalia
  • Selling or possessing marijuana paraphernalia in New Hampshire is considered a misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to $2,000 fine and a maximum of 12 months jail sentence. \ \ Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of Marijuana
  • It is a criminal offense punishable by severe penalties under state law to drive under the influence of marijuana in New Hampshire.
  • Marijuana-related crimes in New Hampshire may also lead to the confiscation of assets. For instance, if a person under 21 is convicted of the possession or sale of marijuana, they face revocation/denial of their driver's license (application) or denial of driving privilege for between 90 days and one year. Similarly, an under-18 convicted of possession with intent to sell cannabis or cannabis sale risks the suspension or denial of their driver's license or driving privilege for between one year and five years.

What is New Hampshire’s Cannabis History?

Marijuana remained banned in New Hampshire until 2013, when the state approved limited medical marijuana through House Bill 537 (HB 537). Between 1997 and 2013, several House Bills were legislated to decriminalize or legalize marijuana, but they all died at one point or another. Among these bills were the following:

  • HB 118 in 1997 was introduced to decriminalize less than 1.5 ounces of marijuana - Killed in House
  • HB 1559 in 1998, HB 721 in 2001, and HB 238 in 2005 were introduced to legalize medical cannabis - Killed in House
  • HB 87 in 1999 and HB 555 in 2009 introduced to decriminalize less than 1 ounce of marijuana - Killed in House
  • HB 197 in 2005 and HB 92 in 2007 were introduced to decriminalize all amounts of marijuana - Killed in House
  • HB 648 was introduced in 2009 to legalize medical cannabis - It passed House and Senate, but a veto override failed in Senate after being vetoed by governor
  • HB 1653 was introduced in 2010 to decriminalize less than 1/4 ounce of marijuana - It passed House but was killed in Senate
  • HB 1527, introduced in 2012, aimed at permitting the legal growing of marijuana - Killed in House

New Hampshire is the 19th state in the U.S. to permit medical cannabis. HB 537 identified a list of medical conditions that qualified a patient for medical marijuana and established the requirements for medical marijuana cards to allow qualifying patients access to medical cannabis. It also set the possession limits of medical marijuana to a maximum of 2 ounces per 10-day period.

Several bills were also presented to decriminalize marijuana or legalize it for recreational purposes in New Hampshire between 2013 and 2017. These include:

  • HB 621 was introduced in 2013 to decriminalize less than 1/4 ounce of marijuana - It passed House but died in Senate
  • HB 492 in 2014 and HB 1694 in 2016 were introduced to legalize less than 1 ounce of cannabis - Killed in House
  • HB 618 was introduced in 2015 to decriminalize less than 1 ounce of marijuana - It passed House but was killed in Senate
  • HB 1610 was presented in 2016 to legalize less than 2 ounces of marijuana - Killed in House

In 2017, New Hampshire decriminalized marijuana and eliminated jail sentences for the possession of small amounts (up to 3/4 ounce) of cannabis. After decriminalization, this offense became a civil violation that attracts a $100 penalty for a first and second offense, while a third offender risks a $300 fine. There have been several marijuana legalization attempts since 2017, but they all failed. The most recent were HB 629, HB 1598, and HB 1348.

What are Restrictions on Cannabis in New Hampshire?

The following are some of the restrictions on cannabis in New Hampshire:

  • While medical marijuana is legal, recreational cannabis is still illegal
  • Qualifying patients may only possess up to 2 ounces of medical cannabis within a 10-day period. They may also possess up to 5 grams of concentrate. Possessing more than these limits is a punishable offense
  • Cannabis cultivation for personal use is prohibited
  • Current New Hampshire medical cannabis laws do not mandate employers to accommodate qualifying patients. Patients must obtain their employers' written consent to possess or use medical marijuana at work
  • Medical cannabis must be used in a private residence. Patients must not consume medicinal cannabis near parks, schools, youth centers, or other places harboring children. It is illegal to consume cannabis in public spaces
  • The use of cannabis in federal buildings or lands in New Hampshire is illegal and prohibited
  • The only legal way to buy medical marijuana products is from state-licensed medical cannabis dispensaries. A person must have a medical marijuana registry identification card to purchase medicinal cannabis at a licensed Alternative Treatment Center (dispensary)
  • It is illegal to use marijuana paraphernalia to consume medicinal cannabis
  • Driving under the influence (DUI) of marijuana is illegal in New Hampshire. It is a punishable offense under the state's drugged driving law
  • While cannabis is decriminalized in New Hampshire, possessing more than 3/4 ounce of marijuana is a punishable offense
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