On July 18, 2017, Governor Chris Sununu signed House Bill 640 (HB 640), a bill that decriminalizes the possession of ¾ of an ounce (that’s around 21 g) for those aged 18 and over and without a valid New Hampshire medical marijuana card and physician’s recommendation. This law takes effect on September 17, 2017. As it currently stands, possession of any amount of marijuana is considered a misdemeanour for those without a MMJ card, and can bring with it up to 1 year in prison and/or a $350 fine.
We’re going to do what we usually do here at Doctor Frank’s and give a bit of a breakdown as to where New Hampshire stands with regards to marijuana, whether recreational or medical.
What Does the Law Look Like for Non-Medical Marijuana Fans?
Our good friend, confidant and glorious leader, Donald Trump (best read with some sarcasm), recently called New Hampshire a “drug-infested den”. Whether this was in reaction to Governor Chris Sununu’s signing of HB 640 and the decriminalization of marijuana in New Hampshire, we can’t say, but it wouldn’t be surprising. However, as strongly-worded Trump’s statement is, he might have something of a point: New Hampshire does indeed have an opioid epidemic. However, whether Trump and co. are willing to accept that legalizing marijuana may well help end the opioid epidemic is up in the air.
For those who like to use pot “recreationally”, New Hampshire is not the friendliest of places when it comes to fines and sentencing. A more comprehensive look at New Hampshire’s laws can be seen in Chapter 318-B – Controlled Drug Act. To give you the gist:
- As of 09/17/17, there will be no criminal penalties for the possession of ¾ of an ounce (around 21 g) or up to 5 g of hashish for those aged 18 or over. However, first- and second- time offenders will still have to pay a $100 civil fine, and subsequent offences may well carry misdemeanour charges. Your marijuana will also be confiscated
- Sale or possession with intent to sell is a felony charge, with a first offense on amounts less than 1 oz bringing with it up to 3 years in prison and/or a $25,000 fine! The sale or intent to sell of 5 lbs or more of marijuana could mean incarceration of up to 20 years and a $300,000 fine!
- Selling or intending to sell within 1,000 feet of a school zone carries a double sentence and fine.
- Possession of more than 5 g and up to 1 lb of hash is considered a misdemeanour, with up to 1 year in prison and/or a $5,000 fine. Manufacturing and/or selling hash can mean a sentence of up to 3 years in prison and/or a $25,000 fine. The fines and sentences increase significantly for the manufacture or sale for any amount of hashish over 5 g.
- The sale or possession of paraphernalia is considered a misdemeanour, and can bring with it up to 1 year in prison and/or a $2,000 fine.
- Possession of marijuana by persons under 21 face a driver’s license suspension between 90 days and 1 year.
- Possession of marijuana by persons under 18 face a driver’s license suspension for 1 – 5 years.
- The sentencing for cultivation of marijuana depends upon the aggregate weight of the plants found.
So, as you can see, New Hampshire isn’t the most cannabis-friendly state in the U.S., although there are definitely states with a much harsher punishment regime.
How Does Politics Look in New Hampshire?
If you’re wondering about the general political climate in New Hampshire, it is best described as “complex”. New Hampshire is a major battleground for the major political parties. Although the last 6 of 7 elections returned Democrat victories, they only won by 0.4% in 2016 – the second closest result in percentage terms after Michigan. Between 1968 and 1988, New Hampshire was quite solidly Republican, although the year 2000 bought a Republican victory as well. New Hampshire also has a significant chunk of independent voters, with smaller parties often polling more than 10% of the total vote.
The Governor (Chris Sununu) and President of the Senate (Chuck Morse) of New Hampshire are both Republicans, whereas the U.S. Senators (Jeanne Shaheen, Maggie Hassan) and U.S. House Delegates (Carol Shea-Porter, Ann McLane Kuster) are all Democrats. Though this split reflects New Hampshire’s politics quite well, when it comes to recreational marijuana, both major parties seem reluctant to support it, often getting shut down by the Senate regardless of whether it’s a Democrat or Republican in the seat.
All-in-all, New Hampshire doesn’t seem too pot-friendly, and it doesn’t look like this will change any time soon. Even getting small amounts of non-medical cannabis possession decriminalized was difficult enough, and it doesn’t look as if New Hampshire will be going down the whole legalized recreational route in the near future.
What About Medical Marijuana?
Medical marijuana became “available” (by law, not necessarily in practise) in New Hampshire on July 23, 2013, after Governor Maggie Hassan signed House Bill 573 (HB 573) into law. HB 573 was approved by the Senate 18-6 on May 23, 2013, and by the House 284-66 on June 26, 2013. HB 573 authorizes the use of cannabis for therapeutic reasons, as well as establishing a Therapeutic Use of Cannabis Advisory Council. To quote from the bill itself:
“A qualifying patient shall not be subject to arrest by state or local law enforcement, prosecution or penalty under state or municipal law, or denied any right or privilege for the therapeutic use of cannabis .”
What Makes a Qualifying Patient in New Hampshire?
Suffering from one or more of the following conditions:
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
- Chemotherapy-induced anorexia
- Chronic pain that hasn’t responded to other medications – effective August 16, 2017
- Chronic Pancreatitis
- Crohn’s Disease
- Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome – effective August 27, 2017
- Elevated Intraocular Pressure
- Hepatitis C and receiving antiviral treatment
- Moderate to severe vomiting
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Muscular Dystrophy
- Parkinson’s Disease (PD)
- Persistent Muscle Spasms
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – effective August 27, 2017
- Spinal Cord Injury or Disease
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Wasting Syndrome
As long as the qualifying list looks, New Hampshire’s medical marijuana programme is probably one of the toughest to qualify for in the United States. New Hampshire patients only qualify for a medical marijuana card after other, “traditional” treatment methods have failed. Moreover, merely suffering from a condition isn’t enough to qualify a patient for a MMJ card in New Hampshire – the patient must present an outward debilitating symptom as well! The qualifying conditions list was updated on July 30, 2017.
On April 3, 2014, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and posted their initial proposal and initiated the rulemaking process. The DHHS started issuing medical marijuana cards on December 28, 2015. The first person to receive a New Hampshire MMJ card was the terminally ill lung cancer patient Linda Horan, after she sued the state and won, and was legally allowed to obtain cannabis legally from Maine.
How Do I Get a Medical Marijuana Card in New Hampshire?
In New Hampshire, the physician’s medical marijuana recommendation is known as “The Written Certification for the Therapeutic Use of Cannabis”. The form can be seen here. In order qualify for the medical marijuana programme in New Hampshire …
- Patients must be at least 18 years of age.
- Patients must provide proof of residency in New Hampshire (e.g. utility bill, bank statement, rental/mortgage agreement).
- Photographic I.D. (e.g. passport, driver’s license) is required. If you do not have New Hampshire state-issued photographic ID, then state-issued ID from another state is valid as long as you can prove New Hampshire residency.
- Patient must be diagnosed and have their condition confirmed by a physician licensed to practice in the state of New Hampshire.
- Patients must bring supporting medical records and/or documentation from their primary care physician confirming and detailing their condition and the treatment methods followed.
- Pay $50 administration fee to process your application form.
- Applications are usually approved or denied in 15 days.
- Registry Identification Cards are issued 5 days after application approval.
Once recommended, registered and approved, you will be able to pick up or have your MMJ card delivered to you from the Therapeutic Use of Cannabis Program. Once you have your card, you can start using the New Hampshire’s dispensary that’s closest to your address.
Where Do I Get Medical Marijuana From in New Hampshire?
There are currently 4 dispensaries in New Hampshire, including:
- Prime Alternative Treatment Centers (Prime ATC)
- Sanctuary Alternative Treatment Center (Sanctuary ATC)
- Temescal Wellness, Dover, NH
- Temescal Wellness, Lebanon, NH – Temescal is planning to open in Massachusetts as well
Sanctuary ATC was the first dispensary to set up shop in New Hampshire, opening on April 30, 2016. The first person to buy from this dispensary was a person known as “Jesse”, who decided to try marijuana for painful muscle ailments after opiate medications, massage therapy and acupuncture failed to halt his pain. No more than 4 medical marijuana dispensaries are allowed to operate at any one time in New Hampshire. Oh, and as a note, New Hampshire prefers to call its medical marijuana dispensaries “alternative treatment centers”!
What Other Restrictions Are There on Medical Marijuana in New Hampshire?
Qualifying medical marijuana patients may only carry up to 2 ounces on their persons at any one time. A patient can buy no more than 2 ounces of marijuana flower in a 10-day period. New Hampshire does have reciprocity with other states, but those with a valid MMJ card from another state cannot use a New Hampshire MMJ dispensary – it just allows them to carry up to 2 ounces on their person without arrest. Cultivating marijuana is illegal in New Hampshire, even for medical marijuana patients.
Is There a Caregiver Program in New Hampshire?
Yes. The details of the program can be seen here. The requirements and restrictions are:
- You must be at least 21 years old.
- Must never have been convicted of a felony of any sort, and you must notify the Program if you are convicted of a felony if you are a designated caregiver, whether in New Hampshire or any other state.
- The qualifying patient/s listed on your application has designated you their primary caregiver.
- Caregivers are allowed up to a maximum of 5 patients. However, if the caregiver and the caregiver’s qualifying patients all live over 50 miles away from their closest dispensary, the caregiver may take on up to 9 patients.
- Caregivers must also provide identity and address details. Failure to inform the Program of a change to your name or address can result in a $150 fine.
- There is a $25 fee for lost valid cards.
- Caregiver renewal costs $50.
- Caregivers are not allowed to use cannabis unless they are also a qualifying patient.
So, as you can see, there are a lot of restrictions surrounding cannabis in New Hampshire. Even patients who might otherwise qualify were they in another state can have a tough time getting medical marijuana in New Hampshire. Let’s hope this is changed some time soon, especially when doing so might help put at least some end to the opioid and prescription medication problems that are present in New Hampshire today.