Neighboring States Have Loosened Their Pot Laws, But Marijuana Is Still Illegal In N.H.
It’s the summer of weed for neighboring states that have legalized recreational marijuana. The road to New Hampshire, though, remains one big “pot” hole.
Pot is still illegal here.
It’s a point underscored in an interview with Tuftonborough Police Chief Andrew Shagoury, president of the N.H. Association of Chiefs of Police.
He is anticipating an increase in marijuana-related hospital visits, youth pot smoking, and impaired driving in the Granite State. "It's going to spill over our borders," he says. (Scroll down for more on N.H. law, and the state's study of legalization.)
So what's legal in neighoring states? Here's a snapshot.
- An adult (21+) can buy up to 1 ounce from marijuana licensees. July 1 was a target date, but no retail/commercial licenses have yet been granted by the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission. Legalization originates from a 2016 ballot question. The law allows a person 21 or older to grow up to six plants in their home, including requirements for securing the premise and that it must not be visible to the public. In general, a town or city may ban adult-use marijuana facilities, and there is some resistance. Public consumption is prohibited. See more here:
- Voters in 2016 approved a citizen referendum to legalize the recreational marijuana use, retail sale, and taxation. The legislature put the brakes on some of the retail and tax provisions in the law. It continues to rework that and establish a regulatory framework, which is TBD, as Maine Public has reported. Here's the Maine law, the Marijuana Legalization Act. An adult (21+) may possess, use or transport 2 1/2 ounces, and have or grow six plants and 12 immature plants.
- Adults (21+) may possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana under Vermont's law, Act 86. They may have two mature plants and grow four immature plants. The law does not establish a commercial market.
Every New England state has medical marijuana laws. New Hampshire enacted its version in 2013.
Pot in New Hampshire
What's this all mean for New Hampshire? Nothing, in a way. New Hampshire state law remains. Its most current change came in September of 2017, when Gov. Chris Sununu signed into law a measure decriminalizing possession of a small amount of pot. The penalty for possession of three-quarters of an ounce or less went from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil violation. It now carries a $100 civil fine.
State laws of note for this topic:
- Chapter 318-B, Controlled Drug Act
- Personal possession of marijuana
- Chapter 265-A:43: (Motor Vehicles) drug or alcohol impairment
That last one, regarding motor vehicles and the controlled drug act, is a misdemeanor penalty. It's a transportation of drugs matter, should Granite Staters legally buy pot in the Bay State and drive back home.
On the federal level, marijuana remains prohibited. It is a Schedule I drug. Crossing a state border with marijuana is a federal crime.
"You've created a crime for yourself the moment you cross the border," says Rick Naya, with N.H.'s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
But that does not mean thousands of Bay Staters--let alone returning Granite Staters--will visit or vacation with a small amount of weed packed among their swim trunks, smores, and bug spray.
Rep. Mark Cusack, the chair of the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Marijuana Policy, told NHPR last month that Massachusetts does not have a projection for how much pot will be sold to out-of-state residents. “There’s no restriction on out-of-state purchases or anything like that, largely, because our state has a large and healthy tourism market so we want to make sure people who are visiting and they’re over 21, it’s legal,” Cusack said.
NHPR interviewed Cusack after he testified before the New Hampshire commission that is tasked by the Legislature with studying marijuana legalization, regulation, and taxation. The commission is scheduled to issue a report Nov. 1.
Advocates for legalization, from Naya to the Marijuana Policy Project's Matt Simon, contend that neighboring states' laws indicate that it's inevitable at some point in New Hampshire. The commission has heard plenty of testimony, too, from those who raise public health concerns.
Law enforcement leaders have raised red flags. Gov. Chris Sununu is against marijuana legalization. Some lawmakers, like Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Whitefield, are already planning to file bills for 2019 for marijuana legalization.
As legalization expands in neighboring states, Chief Shagoury says he expects an increase in marijuana-related issues in New Hampshire, including trafficking. There are some outstanding questions about the potential impact on New Hampshire. He adds, "It's still not clear 100 percent what it's going to mean."
WATCH: Rick Naya shares his views on other states' marijuana legalization laws, and what it means for New Hampshire.