New Hampshire House (Finally) Votes to Decriminalize
Across the border and through the looking glass, Vermont and New Hampshire are contemplating very different cannabis legislations.
Published on March 18, 2016

Just across the state-line from the East Coast’s best chance at full cannabis legalization sits New Hampshire, the sometimes oddly-named “Live Free or Die” state.

Despite not requiring seat belts in cars or helmets on motorcycles in defense of this seemingly noble state motto, New Hampshire is the only New England state that has yet to decriminalize cannabis.

But it seems now the tide has shifted. 

This week, New Hampshire’s House of Representatives may have finally taken the first step toward joining its neighbors down the long road of prohibition’s end.

After spending years doing its level best to keep cannabis underground and totally illegal, it seemed this week that pressure from all directions—now including Vermont to the west, with an adult-use bill currently waiting for a vote in the state House, and Canada to the North, whose new PM has promised to make legalization a priority—the New Hampshire legislature may finally be forced to include cannabis users in its famous motto.

Unfortunately, New Hampshire’s measure is constructed of especially bare bones considering that if Vermont’s democrats have their way, New Hampshire residents will be a short drive away from all the legal weed they could hope for starting January 1, 2018.

House Bill 1631 would decriminalize up to a half ounce of cannabis for personal use, essentially making it impossible for cops to arrest New Hampshire residents who may have purchased their legal cannabis elsewhere under that amount. Less than ideal, anyone who might not be up to the trip to Canada would be right to think.

What’s more, House Bill 1631 passed the New Hampshire House less than a month after the same body struck down the second of two bills that would have created living freedom for the state’s cannabis users and patients.

House Bill 1675, sponsored by Rep. Michael Brewster (R-Merrimack), would have legalized the possession of up to 2.2 pounds for anyone 18 or older, but was voted down in February.

Less surprisingly, the same week the House also overwhelmingly voted against House Bill 1694, a bi-partisan measure which would have legalized industrial hemp production in New Hampshire as well as possession of up to one ounce for adults 21 and over.

It’s clear that New Hampshire’s legislature has no interest in creating a legal cannabis culture in its state. In fact, despite its “Live Free or Die” license plates and state quarters, it seems New Hampshire is determined to be the one state in New England to stem the rising tide.

With cannabis set to be legal in Canada and hippie-heavy Vermont next door, they had better build some big walls—Trumpian, even. If New Hampshire voters want more than decriminalization (which is still by no means certain as the bill still has to pass the New Hampshire senate: if you’re interested and live in NH, you can contact your legislators through the following link), they’re going to have to do it the tried and true way, through a referendum on a November ballot.

Tim Baker
Tim Baker is a New York-based writer and sometimes editor whose work has appeared in Newsweek, TV Guide, CBS and Discovery Special Editions, and can regularly be found at He has an MFA in creative writing from The New School and also attended Hunter College of the City University of New York.
Share this article with your friends!
By using our site you agree to our use of cookies to deliver a better experience.